Semester 1 (intended)
Command School, Starfleet Academy
Foundational relationships between the Federation and designated ‘hostile’ regimes
Upper graduate course
Curriculum lecture (required): PENDING APPROVAL FROM COMMANDANT
“The Court Martial of Korg is considered one of the seminal points in the complex history between the Federation and the Klingon Empire. Taking place six years after the destruction of Praxis, it set the stage for the diplomatic relations that would later come into full bloom with the tragic, but necessary, sacrifice of the Enterprise C at Narendra III.
Korg was a technical officer on the Klingon vessel ISS ‘Iw tel, the equivalent of a science officer / transporter chief on a standard Federation ship of similar make. To understand Korg, it’s necessary to get into a small amount of Klingon culture.
Early in his career in the Klingon Defense Force, Korg was involved in a transporter accident, which left his right arm about one and a half times the length of a normal arm and withered. To those with a shallow knowledge of the culture, this would represent a career-ending injury, but the Klingon culture operates under an expanded definition of ‘strength’.
A Klingon warrior is expected to be operating at 100% of what he is capable of being but that is bound by known physical limitations. A Klingon who is deathly ill, for example, would not be held to same standard that a young, healthy Klingon in his prime would be. However, the effort expended would be judged and expected to be the same.
Practically speaking, this means that a Klingon who might have suffered a debilitating injury can incorporate tools that will allow him to survive and thrive, as long as he can survive on his own and use his tools to thrive during harsh missions. In those circumstances, the Klingon could still be considered a respected warrior despite a noted infirmity. This bit of cultural information became quite relevant at Korg’s future court martial.
Before his installation on the ‘Iw tel, Korg had proven his technical acumen, especially in regards to precision, and had already shown an uncanny ability to survive adverse circumstances with an astonishing talent for zero-G combat.
His rise through the ranks was notable, but not overall impressive, and his position on an starship was already considered the pinnacle of his career. In summary, he truly held pride in his achievements and expected no further advancement within the command structure. He found his niche and his service record reflected a consistent level of competence.
The ‘Iw tel had just been in a series of skirmishes on the Romulan border, which led to a Pyrrhic victory that cost the majority of the crew. Most of the crew, typical for a vessel of this size, were from across the Empire but an unusual amount were political appointments from House Du’Qan.
The reasoning behind this quickly became quite clear. The new captain was fresh to the service and required an exceptional amount of support to get established. His appetites ran to the bloodthirsty, even among the Klingons, and verged on what they may even classify as ‘sadistic’.
Punishments were arbitrary, by his whim, and largely brutal. Morale plummeted and shipboard solidarity all but vanished.
Korg was quick to understand that about half of the command crew was the captain’s, including the second and third officers. He also understood that the bridge crew was the least likely to be punished, as they controlled vital functions of the ship.
He planned to just endure the tour of duty until he could locate an alternate posting. It was a sound enough plan, but unfortunately, fate had another idea.
The ship’s primary mission was a simple border patrol within the Organian treaty boundaries. The job was: check in on Klingon-controlled worlds and coordinate any necessary tasks they needed and patrol close to Federation-controlled worlds, harassing them without violating the actual treaty.
Without any further orders from the admiralty, but within ‘mission parameters’—if you bent them far enough—the ‘Iw tel deviated from its patrol mission and entered official Federation space.
There to ‘investigate an anomaly that could be a Federation cloaking device’, they came across the colony ship SS Fair Seasons, bound for Sherman’s Planet. Under the captain’s direct orders, the ship was destroyed, over the strenuous objections of the first officer Jek of House Martoq.
Immediately after the ship’s destruction, the captain violently confronted First Officer Jek, demanding to know if Jek’s action was a challenge to his command. Jek admitted that it was.
Before the challenge was accepted by the captain, two of his loyalists flanked Jek and stabbed him once, on either side. The captain then accepted the challenge and handily defeated the wounded Jek.
This was the moment when Korg abandoned any hope of receiving another posting before avoiding a tragedy.
The captain put in orders for an aggressive search, with the open intent to find other Federation ships to annihilate. Korg offered to do a heavy scan of the debris, in case something of value could be scavenged for the ‘Iw tel.
The captain agreed off-hand, already deep in the details of his ‘glorious’ patrol route with his subordinates. What the captain didn’t understand was that such a heavy scan left deliberate energy residue that would be easy for Federation vessels to pick up and identify as Klingon.
It would virtually ensure that, very quickly, they would cease to be the hidden hunter and instead become the hunted.
When the Fair Seasons did not arrive at Sherman’s Planet on time, the U.S.S. Flintridge, a Starfleet cruiser, intercepted their remains and began a search for the Klingon aggressor. Within slightly less than a week’s time, it had unearthed the approximate location of the ‘Iw tel and was closing in quickly on the cloaked ship.
The captain of the ‘Iw tel, frustrated at his plans being disrupted, angled his ship towards a nearby gas giant. The idea was to give the impression that they were going to use the gravity of the gas giant to passively accelerate and slingshot away from it before going into warp.
However—and this was the clever part of the plan—the captain was planning to dump debris from the ship and ignite a portion of the gas giant, leading the Starfleet vessel to think he had tried the slingshot maneuver and failed. Cloaked, and safely hidden at the pole of gas giant, he would then wait until the Federation ship left and would go on their way.
The crew of the ‘Iw tel began the maneuver as ordered and their ship started towards the gas giant. As soon as they were committed though, Korg struck.
In an instant, the captain and his loyalists on the bridge, as well as a known handful elsewhere on the ship, were transported to a sealed cargo container down in the hold, airtight with the gravity plates turned off.
Korg immediately took command, the startled remains of the bridge crew following his lead. The bridge was sealed while fighting started up across the ship as the long-suffering crew rose up against the loyalists still wandering free.
Instead of enacting the captain’s plan, Korg completed the maneuver, slingshoting around the gas giant and then warping to a tactically strategic position near the Flintridge. From there, he had two choices, the ship’s weapons suite or their warp and impulse systems. Neither was tactically sound.
Taking out the weapons would lead to the ship easily outmaneuvering the ‘Iw tel and coming back after repairs. Removing warp and impulse would only give the Flintridge a big target they could unleash their weapons on, unless some miracle allowed Korg to maneuver his admittedly quicker ship out of the way.
Korg unleashed a concentrated blast onto the warp and impulse engines. The Flintridge returned fire, as the ‘Iw tel tried a strategic retreat, but a miracle failed to occur. The ‘Iw tel was crippled, as Korg had anticipated.
Korg, on behalf of the crew, offered a full and honorable surrender. The security team that beamed onto the bridge was greeted by Korg. He quickly explained that the captain of the ship, along with most (but not all) of those responsible for the war crime of destroying the Fair Seasons were down in the cargo bay and offered access only to the most current logs as proof.
Security went down to seize the captain but were assaulted by loyalists that Korg had not identified yet. However, this was not colonists they were fighting but seasoned Starfleet officers. Though there were some minor casualties, the loyalists were contained quickly.
The two sides of the crew were separated into Korg and the captain’s factions and isolated in lockup. Korg, as acting captain was taken to the ready room to be debriefed by Captain Hoag of the Flintridge.
Their first interview seemed combative, but on later inspection with the ship’s cultural specialist, both Captain Hoag and her expert noticed Korg’s responses appeared staged.
In a second round of interrogation, Hoag took the offensive and, through Korg’s wordplay, learned the gist of what had happened on board the ‘Iw tel.
Hoag approached the third session as a discussion between peers and asked Korg for his terms of surrender. Korg only asked for two things: for his crew and the ship to remain unmolested (the ship was an older class and of no strategic value) and that Korg be allowed to speak privately to at least one Federation family member of his choice, connected to the deceased on the Fair Seasons.
The requests were granted, though the reasoning behind it was opaque at the time. The Flintridge accompanied the ‘Iw tel to Sherman’s Planet and began the process for Federation ambassadors to contact their Klingon counterparts.
Given the volatility of the situation, an Andorian delegation was appointed to the negotiations. The Klingons approached it with their typical bluster; threats of war and sanction were frequent and loud.
The Andorians threw accusations of dishonor back at the Klingons for the destruction of the SS Fair Seasons, which led to open combat among several of the ambassadors on both sides. This combat led to the agreement which entailed the Federation promising to turn over Korg’s part of the crew and the ship with no further delay.
Korg, the captain of the ‘Iw tel, and the captain’s loyalists were all that was left for negotiation. The Klingons pushed to have the entire matter handled in-house on Q’onos.
Korg would be court-martialed first, for dealing with his captain in such a dishonorable manner. Only after that judgment could Korg’s words be measured against the captain on the secondary charges surrounding the Federation colony ship.
The Federation wanted the opposite: They wanted the captain up for murder in a Federation jurisdiction, preferably Sherman’s Planet, and Korg was their star witness. Things heated up and came to an impasse.
Then things got interesting.
Isaac Clarke, a farmer on Sherman’s Planet, broke into the proceedings and in a fury challenged the captain to the Right of Vengeance. This threw the entire session in disarray with a number of the Klingon ambassadors claiming Isaac Clarke couldn’t invoke the Right because he wasn’t Klingon.
Korg further muddied the waters when he vocally offered his sponsorship of Clarke AND put his House’s name behind the action. All of the ambassadors withdrew to their respective corners and went on hiatus to assess what could be done.
Isaac’s claim, which was affording to him because his niece was present on the Fair Seasons, took precedent over the court martial which meant the captain’s guilt would be tried before any other actions could be taken.
This ran the risk of upsetting the captain’s House, who were hoping the entire thing could potentially be dealt with by establishing Korg’s guilt and thus silencing him.
Though Clarke was a human, the fact that a Klingon would support his right to vengeance meant that a lot more Houses beyond the High Council would be paying attention. That did not bode well for a simple solution to the situation.
The Federation ambassadors came to the table first and agreed to a compromise. They would allow Korg’s court martial to take place first, monitored by Federation observers.
Depending on the outcome, they reserved the right to try the captain of the ‘Iw tel in Federation court, however, he would definitely be allowed to be tried by Klingon law first, and they would respect Klingon law beyond their own. The Klingons agreed and all relevant parties were transferred back to Q’onos for trial.
During the court martial, the prosecution went after Korg on three counts: first, that his challenge to the captain was unacceptable under the methods used to raise in rank (mostly physical combat); second, that the confinement, rather than death, of the captain and other superior officers to Korg rendered his rise to the captaincy illegitimate; finally, that turning over assets of the Empire to the Federation was an act of high treason, as it let potential military secrets fall into the hands of an enemy.
Korg’s response to the first allegation was to raise his withered arm, a feat in and of itself impressive since, except in zero-G, his arm was all but useless. The implication was clear: he used the tools at hand, as efficiently as any weapon, because that’s what he had to do.
The first officer’s death was also entered into evidence as proof that there was no guarantee that the captain would have acted in any way honorably had the challenge been given using the proper form. In fact, the captain’s previous actions had all but guaranteed that he would have acted dishonorably and that mattered for a lot in these circumstances.
To the second charge, Korg called to the stand a cleric from the Boreth Monastery and had him read a passage about the Black Ship, the metaphor most connected to death. While the passage was being read, the technical specs of the cargo bay were shown.
It had been made airtight, gravity off, and while the captain and his contained loyalists may have found a way out, three sides of the container were welded to the side of the ship and led to vacuum. It was a fifty-fifty chance they would would have survived, perhaps even less. Korg hadn’t ended his challenge against the captain; in fact, he was in the middle of it when faced with the threat of the Federation.
When confronted with the final charge, Korg invoked Kahless and stated “Only a fool fights in the jaws of a storm.” His actions, taken in that light, was seen as a way to preserve as many tactical assets as possible when faced with an impossible situation.
There was no circumstance under which his ship could have won that fight. In fact, the discharge of his weapons was less of an attack and more of a ‘counting coup’ against a vastly superior foe. It brought honor in the idea that Korg was brave enough to spit in the eye of Starfleet in the first place.
Isaac Clarke then took the stand at the defense’s request. He provided details on the tactical value of Sherman’s Planet (there was none), the military value of the SS Fair Seasons (again, none), and the overall strength of the Flintridge.
He reflected that Korg had searched through the personnel files of the people killed on the Fair Seasons until he found someone like Clarke, who was willing to risk his life for a shot at vengeance. Clarke stated openly that he was glad to have the chance to face the coward who killed his niece, at under the bounds of Klingon law.
The deliberations of the court took a little under a week, as popular pressure grew to vindicate Korg’s bravery and repudiate the captain. Korg was declared innocent of all charges and the captain’s trial, which proceeded directly after, was remarkably swift.
His command was stripped and he was set to be a gak farmer, doomed to an inglorious death. Clarke was not granted the right to vengeance but the admiralty expressed their sincere hope that he understood that such a punishment, just shy of discommendation itself, would make life for the former captain a sheer hell.
Clarke seemed satisfied.
The (now ex-) captain was not.
Using the last of his family contacts, the captain hired an assassin to kill Korg. The assassin, disgusted by being hired by a child-killer, pretended to take the commission and then reported the contract to Korg personally. Korg passed the incident up to the High Council and this time, the captain was discommendated, his name struck from all records.
The captain was forced into hiding but he wasn’t content with that. Discovering that Korg was overseeing the re-fit of the ‘Iw tel. He beamed on to the bridge with the intent to ambush the tech officer, only to find the deck sealed, the gravity off, and both Korg and Clarke waiting for him.
By request, the captain’s fate has not been revealed. It’s likely he is dead, but it’s equally possible he’s on a prison planet in Klingon or Federation space. Either way, he was never heard from again.
Clarke returned to Sherman’s Planet and a monument was built to the Fair Seasons. Korg’s name can be found on that monument, in respect for what he did in bringing the killers to justice.
Korg’s recognized, successful challenge led to the admiralty offering him command of the ‘Iw tel, a commission he politely refused. The first officer slot he also turned down. When it came to the second officer slot, he turned it down violently, which led to a superior accusing him of challenging their authority.
The following beatdown was brutal but it put Korg and the admiralty in the spot they both wanted. The admiralty would gain a very clever asset in its command structure, and Korg would be in a position not to lead a ship but to take the measure of its captain, supporting a good one and winnowing out a bad.”