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In the mirror universe, the Cardassians were a quasi-reptilian humanoid species native to Cardassia in the Alpha Quadrant. The name means in their native language "People of Discipline". (ST - New Worlds, New Civilizations short story: "The Glories of the Hebitians")
Cardassians began to exist as an established civilization around 15,700 BC. Their early civilizations included the First and Second Hebitian Empires. Their history commenced in earnest during the Gentaroc period, as farmer-raiding nomads made themselves kings, built walled city-states and went to ferocious war with one another. Cardassians would recall this as their golden age. Mighty kings baptized their shields in the blood of the weak. Hoary-headed poets celebrated them in epics.
When one mighty ruler, Unthal Katret, conquered all of his neighbors, the First Unthalian era began. Cardassians learned to love peace and prosperity and the harsh justice of the Unthal Dynasty. The Global Legates, as the Unthal Emperors were called, demanded excellence in all fields from their subjects. Most especially they commanded the creation of great works of art to venerate the achievements of their ancestors. This gave birth to the great Cardassian love of art, which sowed the seeds of their cyclical destruction.
At first, Cardassian artisans made the usual things of beauty to adorn the houses of the rich: flattering paintings, glittering jewelry, decorative dishware, and the like. But with no foes left to vanquish, the Cardassians channeled their innate ferocity into their artistic tastes. The triumph of one style over another substituted for the old battles between city-states. Aesthetes fought one another in the streets over modes of architectural decoration, verse structures in drama, or the relative value of tapestries versus paintings. The Legates smiled upon and even participated in these cultural wars. The only person considered greater than an accomplished painter, sculptor or ceramist was the wealthy collector who had managed to accumulate the best collection of that artist's work, the collector would win even greater acclaim if they managed to get their masterpieces at bargain prices.
The Cardassian obsession with art ownership outlasted their interest in particular artists and styles. However, the more they sought the new and exciting, the more jaded they became. Artists increasingly fell back on grotesque, hideous, and disturbing images to get a rise out of their audience. When freakish works got boring as well, people made their own lives into grisly performance art, which included mutilating their bodies, defiling old, passé works once considered beautiful, and living in drug-induced hallucinatory states. However, that eventually became dull as well, so they turned to murder as an art form. The world's most perverse killers became its most celebrated artists. Artists competed to outdo one another in acts of aesthetically-motivated gruesomeness.
Toppling the faltering Unthalian Legates after four thousand years of uninterrupted rule, the winners became heads of state. They graduated from art-murder to art-genocide. Throughout the Sedira Period, its name translating as "The Killing Time", successive mad monarchs displaced one another as a death-crazed public demanded ever more savage expressions of their art. The Sedira Period ended in about 6500 BC as global government collapsed. A new dark age swept the land. City-states went to war with one another again. Literacy, art traditions, and basic technologies fell by the wayside as Cardassia lapsed back into tribal barbarism. The glories of the past were forgotten. (Decipher RPG module: Through a Glass, Darkly)
Becoming a military stateEdit
Cardassia's history began to cycle. From barbaric origins, a civilization arose, which bred warfare and, in turn, brought about political unification when the greatest general conquered the world. Unification brought prosperity, which fostered boredom, which inspired art, which gradually became boring as well, until art again bred blood-letting. Art-related violence started as partisanship between supporters of different styles and escalated into aesthetically-inspired mass murder. This collapsed the economy and threw the Cardassians back to their barbaric roots, from where the cycle could begin all over again.
However, a Cardassian named Urrent Gar sought to bring the cycle to a close as he completed his world conquest in the mid-16th century. By that time, Cardassia Prime, never a resource-rich planet, had been almost entirely stripped of its natural wealth and desertification was taking over more and more arable land. Shortly after the magnitude of that problem became apparent, a military dictatorship took over the planet in the "Night of Talons", a ten hour planetwide wave of assassinations which targeted key governmental officials. When dawn came after that bloody night, the military assumed control.
New art would be outlawed and people could enjoy any old art that survived. Although the people could take part in non-fatal reconstructions of classic old performances, they would have to concede that the real thing was too potent, as Cardassians loved art too much to enjoy it in moderation. Responding to Urrent's strength and boldness, the Cardassian people agreed to accept tight restrictions on their passions. Those who did not would be hunted down, put on trial and executed. Urrent brought about the Cardassian Union, a military dictatorship which would continue to exist well into the 24th century. (Decipher RPG module: Through a Glass, Darkly)
Expansion into spaceEdit
In the 16th century, the Bajorans made first contact with the Cardassians when several Bajoran lightships, which were designed to explore the space surrounding Bajor, reaching Cardassia after being propelled there by tachyon eddies in the Denorios Belt. In the 24th century, this fact was frequently mentioned in the propaganda broadcasts of the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance as evidence of the historic bond between the peoples of Bajor and Cardassia. (TNG - Mirror Universe novel: The Worst of Both Worlds)
First contact with the Bajorans showed Cardassians that there was still something to do even if they could not trust themselves to make art any more: they could conquer the galaxy. Their resource situation still grim, they bent their industrial economy toward space flight and threw themselves into the project with typical fervor. After they developed warp capability in 1620, the Cardassians began to search the heavens around them for other sources of raw materials and foodstuffs. They soon found dozens of other inhabited planets in the vicinity, planets ripe for conquest.
The new Cardassian Union colonized its first world in 1644, and conquered and enslaved its first alien planet in 1697. Dozens of "members" (puppet worlds) joined after Cardassia conquered them or gave them a choice between membership and obliteration. Members had to provide raw materials to Cardassia Prime to keep it functioning. This period represented the first flowering of Cardassian civilization in thousands of years. Constant tribute from Union members freed Cardassia from the restrictions imposed by their world's resource scarcity and the Cardassians began to create new structures, repair old ones, and heal some of the scars they had left on their once-beloved homeworld. Following the lead of renowned architect Tavor Kell, the Cardassians established their distinctive arch-and-dome style of architecture.
From then on, the Cardassians expanded spinward and rimward. Due to the tenacity and defensive capability of many of the native species of the sector, their Union was still only a third of the Terran Empire's size by the 23rd century, despite their much longer window of opportunity. (Decipher RPG module: Through a Glass, Darkly)
Conflicts with the Terran EmpireEdit
Cardassia's period of growth and expansion came to an abrupt and unwelcome halt in 2255, when the Union encountered the Terran Empire for the first time. Faced with a potential competitor, the Empire attacked, scoring several major victories, including the conquest of the valuable Bajor-B'hava'el System, which had been a "protected territory" of Cardassia but not a Union member.
Having never encountered such a powerful foe, or one possessed of such ruthless focus, the Cardassians quickly mobilized and managed to get enough ships on the line to temporarily halt the Imperial advance into Cardassian territory. The conflict eventually settled into a war of attrition. The Terrans mined Bajor, using its mineral wealth to construct new ships close to the front. Lacking the Empire's economic or technological resources, the Cardassians slowly gave ground on several fronts.
In 2260, a Starfleet vessel, the ISS Defiant, bombarded the surface of the Cardassian colony on Setlik II, killing thousands. Nearby Cardassian ships responded to the attack, engaging the Defiant but failing to catch it as it escaped. From then on, Starfleet would intercept dozens of Cardassian vessels on reconnaissance missions and counterintelligence operations would capture four or five Cardassian spies a year.
Starfleet's own intelligence operations against the Cardassians would reveal that they had learned a great deal about the Empire from 2260 onward. Like the Empire, they had bent all available resources toward a major military build-up. Throughout this period, Cardassian vessels continued to spar with Starfleet ships in various small engagements. (Decipher RPG module: Through a Glass, Darkly)
Forming the Klingon-Cardassian AllianceEdit
The Cardassians were a generally militaristic race. In the late 2270s, the Cardassian Union was engaged in numerous border conflicts with the Tholian Assembly. At Emperor Spock's order, the Terran Empire provided ships and small arms to the Cardassians in order to aid them in their wars against the Tholians. (TOS - Mirror Universe novel: The Sorrows of Empire)
By the early 2290s, the Cardassian Union, then led by Legate Renar, was an emerging power in the Alpha Quadrant which sought to increase its scope at the expense of that of the Terran, Klingon and Romulan Empires.
In 2293, Renar represented his people at the Khitomer Conference, a diplomatic conference held by the major Alpha Quadrant powers on the Klingon-held world Khitomer following the explosion of Praxis, one of the moons of the Klingon homeworld Qo'noS. While both his Klingon and Romulan counterparts offered Emperor Spock the opportunity to enter into an alliance with their respective empires at the conference, the Cardassians were more pragmatic as they were aware that they had comparatively little to offer the Terran Empire in comparison to the Klingons and the Romulans. Instead, they sought to extend their influence over the territory of the Terran Empire in a more direct manner.
Following the failure of the Khitomer Conference, Spock postulated that the Cardassians and the Klingons would meet to discuss a grand alliance between the Cardassian Union and the Klingon Empire, which would allow them to defeat the Terran Empire. This prediction was proven entirely correct. In 2295, the Klingon-Cardassian Alliance was formed. In a relatively short period of time, the Alliance was able to completely defeat the Terran Republic, the short-lived successor state of the Terran Empire, using an advanced fleet of Klingon birds-of-prey which had the ability to fire their weapons while cloaked. The Terrans, the Vulcans and other former subject species of the Terran Empire were massacred while the survivors were enslaved. (TOS - Mirror Universe novel: The Sorrows of Empire)
In 2266, after several bitterly contested battles, the Terran Empire pushed the front back to the Badlands, only a few light-years from Cardassia Prime itself. The Terran Empire launched the first wave of the long-planned fullscale campaign against Cardassia. However, they suffered a setback at the hands of the intervening Klingon Empire. During its assault on Cardassia Prime, Starfleet fell victim to a surprise flanking attack by a Klingon fleet led by Klingon Emperor Kor, which diverted the Empire's forces and crippled its logistical capabilities. Starfleet rained destruction on Cardassian shipyards and command centers before accepting their weak position and staging a harrowing retreat through encircling Klingon lines.
The Cardassians sensed in the Klingons, a people they had up until then ignored as "savage barbarians", the allies they needed to oppose the Terran Empire. They quickly sent an embassy to the Klingons, proposing an alliance. Recognizing that the Terran Empire would crush each of them individually, the Klingons agreed and the Alliance was formed. Together their forces began to oppose the Terrans effectively and eventually to pushed them back into their own territory. Imperial Intelligence revealed that both sides were frantically rebuilding, sharing technology and intelligence. In doing so, they integrated their economies.
The Cardassians seemed to get along extremely well with their new allies. In the Klingons, they saw an echo of the great heroes of their own Gentaroc period and envied the way in which Klingons managed to pursue their native art forms without driving themselves into a killing frenzy. Intelligence reports mentioned a sudden vogue for Klingon opera among high-ranking officers of the Cardassian military. Still, fissures between the two camps existed and could be profitably exploited. Cardassians, seeing themselves as highly cultured, reacted angrily to the Klingons' arrogant denigration of their "effete" ways. They also disliked what they see as the habitual Klingon lack of discipline, especially their obsession with looting. They hoped to teach the Klingons the virtue of a more tightly policed society.
The strength of the Alliance hinged on the personal admiration Cardassian Legate Cascul and Emperor Kor bore for one another. Cascul admired Kor's strategic foresight as worthy of a Cardassian while Kor saw Cascul's perpetual teetering on the edge of violence as eminently Klingon.
In 2273, agents of both the Khak'ma and Tal Shiar were captured and turned by the Terran Empire's Minister of Vassal Affairs Samuel Cogley, who, alongside War Minister Spock, belonged to an underground dissident organization called the Oswaldites. Not wanting either the Alliance or the Romulans to know he had stepped down the military build-up, Spock fed both intelligence agencies information suggesting the opposite. Although the disinformation would, in the short term, stop the Alliance from attacking, its long-term effect would be to motivate them to step up their own shipbuilding campaign even further.
By 2277, the Alliance stepped up its incursions into Imperial territory, which, among other things, prevented Terran Emperor Alex Danaher from resuming Spock's reforms. Instead, Spock had to spend more, not less, on Starfleet in order to repel the Klingons and Cardassians. This meant going to the Ferengi Grand Nagus for more loans, which in turn depressed the credit.
In 2285, the Alliance launched an assault on the planet Ceti Alpha V in an attempt to retrieve the Genesis Weapon. However, they ended up battling against the crew of the ISS Enterprise (NCC-1701), who had come to the planet in order to retrieve Spock, who had been restored to back to life by revivifying energy of the Genesis Effect. Although Alliance forces briefly occupied the Enterprise, they were destroyed by an array of booby-traps installed by Montgomery Scott.
In 2288, the Terran Empire suffered an economic collapse. Because the galactic economy was sufficiently integrated, the Alliance, to the surprise of Klingon and Cardassian leaders, suffered as well, causing bankruptcies and job losses throughout their territories. However, they suffered much less than the Empire and were able to complete their military build-up by 2293.
Khak'ma bombs blew up Praxis, one of the moons of Qo'noS, wreaking havoc on the planet below. Klingon ships strafed Qo'noS' surface, killing the surviving Terran colonists and reclaiming their homeworld. Alliance fleets quickly cut their way through demoralized and ill-equipped Starfleet forces. The pace of their victory was slowed only by the Cardassians' methodical desire to fully secure one world before moving on to the next. Starfleet fell back to Earth, leaving only local resistance forces to face the Alliance as it mowed over dozens of colonies, subjects and vassals.
The remainder of Starfleet was smashed in its final defense of Earth in 2297. The Enterprise was seemingly one of the last ships to be destroyed, with Spock presumed to have been on board. Just before it took a direct hit and exploded in the vacuum of space, the ship was maneuvered, its weapons system crippled, so that a pursuing Cardassian vessel smashed into the Klingon flagship. All aboard the Klingon ship were killed, including Emperor Kor. The savage Terrans resisted occupation more fiercely than any other species, occasioning three years of house-to-house fighting before the population was finally pacified. By 2305, Alliance forces had conquered and occupied the entire Terran Empire. (Decipher RPG module: Through a Glass, Darkly)
The Alliance remained the undisputed major power in the Alpha Quadrant until the early 2370s, at which time its stability was threatened by the success of the Terran Rebellion. (DS9 episodes: "Crossover", "Through the Looking Glass", "Shattered Mirror", "The Emperor's New Cloak")
In January 2379, the Terran Rebellion, with the assistance of Memory Omega and M'k'n'zy of Calhoun, was victorious in its war against the Alliance. The Terrans, the Vulcans and the other enslaved species were freed and the Galactic Commonwealth was founded. A neutral zone was subsequently established between Alliance and Commonwealth space. This effectively ended the unprecedented power and influence over galactic affairs which the Cardassian people had enjoyed for the previous 84 years as one of the two principle races in the Alliance. In 2380, the Alliance was officially dissolved. (ST - Mirror Universe novel: Rise Like Lions)