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The Obsidian Order is without a doubt the most feared organization in The Cardassian Union, and quite possibly the most feared espionage organization in the Alpha Quadrant.
Its agents are masters of espionage, assassination, sabotage, and interrogation techniques. They are ruthless, cunning, and extremely loyal to their organization and the Cardassian Union (in that order).
Although nominally controlled by the Detapa Council and Central Command, the Obsidian Order is an organization that makes its own rules, and keeps its own secrets. The current Order is a far cry from the fearsome, omnipresent organization that once monitored and influenced every aspect of Cardassian life.
As the Cardassian saying goes, "do not look for the Order, it looks for you."
Recruitment & Selection
The Obsidian Order has always chosen its own recruits. After all, as the people who keep watch over millions of Cardassian citizens every day, the Obsidian Order knows better than anyone the capabilities of any Cardassian.
The prime qualities the Order looks for are ruthlessness, resourcefulness, and loyalty. Obsidian Order agents must be creative and cunning; they deal with some of the most dangerous opponents in the galaxy. For this reason, the Order rarely finds suitable candidates among the ranks of the Central Command. Military officers are often ruthless and loyal enough, but the military does not encourage the initiative or creative thinking that makes for a good intelligence operative.
Loyalty is, perhaps, one of the most important qualities of an Obsidian Order agent. The Order is virtually above the law in Cardassian space, wielding great power. It demands complete loyalty from its agents in return. Agents suspected of wrongdoing or, worse yet, collaboration with an enemy power, are targeted for assassination. The Obsidian Order rarely takes chances, and most rogue agents don't live for very long.
When the Order finds someone who they believe has the qualities to make a good agent, they approach him or her covertly, testing the potential candidate for suitability. Often these tests involve things to determine if the candidate has conflicting loyalties, or can be easily bribed or blackmailed. If this is the case, the candidate may not be suitable.
If the candidate passes these tests, the Order approaches him or her and offers training and an opportunity to join. This offer is rarely refused, since the power of the Obsidian Order is well known throughout the Cardassian Union. Those who accept the offer to join the Order rarely show any outward sign of it. Most appear to go on with their lives normally, perhaps taking an extended "vacation" or "sabbatical" from time to time, but otherwise blending in perfectly with the people around them.
All new recruits attend the Obsidian Order's special training facility, the so-called "Midnight Academy." Even most members of the Order don't know where the Academy is located, though it is very clearly not on Cardassia Prime. Only the highest ranked members of the Order are told its true location, not even the High Command knows where it is located.
Inside, Obsidian Order recruits learn the skills of espionage, infiltration, assassination, and intelligence gathering. The training is brutal, even by Cardassian standards. The photographic memory and other mental discipline drilled into the recruits from their childhood are vital in the Academy. Agents claim humans wouldn't survive a week at the Midnight Academy, they're probably right.
The penalty for failure at the Academy is death, or exile from the Order, (which amounts to the same thing). Recruits are tested to their limits. Those who fail, die, those who succeed go on to become full agents of the Order. The Academy teaches ruthlessness and cunning by necessity.
Agents of the Order return to the Academy from time to time for additional training, although agents are expected to maintain their skills in the field. An agent who slips up or gets rusty usually ends up dead, so the Order has no problems encouraging agents to continue training.
The Obsidian Order is organized into "branches," each specializing in a particular aspect of intelligence work. Agents are assigned to the branch most suited to their talents, although agents are often posted to many branches throughout their careers to broaden their skills and experience.
The Command Branch oversees and coordinates the activities of all the other branches of the Obsidian Order, and makes sure each branch work together seamlessly. It is the leadership of the Order, and sets policy, assigns missions, chooses priorities, and makes other command decisions.
The Command Branch is considered the final destination for ambitious Obsidian Order agents, and only the most capable agents are appointed to command positions. The current head of the Obsidian Order is Doret Tashom, the successor to Enabran Tain. His current position appears stable but, appearances can be deceiving.
Doret Tashom started out as one of the Obsidian Order's most promising recruits. Early on, he caught the attention of Enabran Tain, the then head of the Order. Tashom became Tain's protégé, along with Elim Garak. He worked hard to earn Tain's respect, and developed a strong dislike of Garak, who he saw as a rival.
Tashom eventually discovered the reason Tain had Garak as his student, Garak was actually Tain's son, but born under circumstances that prevented Tain from acknowledging him. Tashom arranged for Garak to fail a mission assigned to him by Tain by leaking info to the target. He then confronted Tain with his information about Garak's true parentage, preventing any possibility of Tain showing leniency towards his son and student. Tain exiled Garak from Cardassia and the Order, and issued orders that he should be killed if he ever returned. In respect for Tashom's ruthlessness, Tain appointed him his successor as head of the Obsidian Order.
Ironically, the Obsidian Order's occupation with internal matters helped protect it from the storm that struck the Cardassian Union. The Dominion Alliance and the war with the rest of the Alpha Quadrant largely passed over the Order. The Dominion preferred their own intelligence-gathering methods, and did not trust the Order, so they retreated underground and bided their time.
The Analysis Branch is responsible for analyzing all collected intelligence data and preparing reports for Command and other branches, as needed. The Analysis Branch is broken down into "bureaus," each devoted to a specific subject: the Federation Bureau, Klingon Bureau, Romulan Bureau, and so forth.
The Analysis Branch has access to a vast storehouse of information gathered by the Obsidian Order's agents over many years. This information includes physical archives as well, collections of evidence, files, technologies, even biological samples, all kept in specially designed stasis chambers in a central archive on Cardassia Prime. The current head of the Analysis Branch is Gova Jusett, a formidable Cardassian woman with iron-grey hair, and a sour disposition.
The Assassination Branch - The highly trained and efficient agents of the Obsidian Order's Assassination Branch are known right throughout the Alpha Quadrant. Their ability to make an assassination look like an accident is legendary. They are suspected of killings ranging from Federation officials to Romulan admirals to heads of Klingon houses.
Cardassian assassins learn a wide variety of killing techniques, including their own special martial art, Telais Ta'Rom. They generally prefer subtle methods of assassination, particularly obscure poisons, genetically engineered viruses, and "equipment failures," such as the destruction of shuttles and other spacecraft or the well-timed rupture of an EPS conduit near their victim.
The Assassination Branch is considered no more or less important than any other in the Order, but it does carry a certain "romantic" quality, and agents serving in this branch often advance more quickly than others.
The current head of the Assassination Branch of the Obsidian Order is Nex Kosa, himself a skilled assassin known for operations against Federation and Romulan targets. Kosa supports Doret Tashom in the restoration of the Obsidian Order, but there are rumors that Kosa has his own political agenda.
The Counterintelligence Branch of the Obsidian Order is responsible for protecting the Order and the Cardassian Union against the intelligence operations of other interstellar powers, like the Federation and the Romulan Empire. They carried out their duties with extraordinary efficiency. For many years, Starfleet Intelligence considered the Cardassian Union the most difficult interstellar power to conduct intelligence-gathering operations against.
Counterintelligence's spotless record was marred by the infiltration of changelings into Cardassian society, particularly into the ranks of the Obsidian Order. Counterintelligence was unprepared for the Founders' powers of imitation; exact enough to fool sophisticated scanning equipment. This allowed the Founders to lead the forces of the Obsidian Order and the Tal Shiar into a trap in the Omarion Nebula.
The head of the Counterintelligence Branch is Circha Ossamat, who earned his position when the previous head of the branch was executed following the Omarion Incident. Ossamat is a slight man whose soft-spoken demeanour hides a core of considerable deviousness and paranoia.
The Cryptography Branch handles the design, implementation, and breaking of various types of codes. They developed the recursive encryption algorithm used in most modern Cardassian codes, which has proven nearly impossible for foreign powers like the Federation to break. The renowned Cardassian memory, and a talent for mathematics, makes the Branch one of the most efficient of its kind in the Alpha Quadrant.
Cryptography makes use of the most advanced Cardassian computer systems to run their encryption and decryption algorithms. They also rely on the information gathered by the Infiltration and Interrogation Branches to provide them with valuable keys to unlocking different code sequences.
The current head of the Cryptography Branch is Terbin Usa, an older Cardassian man with a bookish exterior and wispy grey hair, concealing a razor-sharp and insightful mind. He lost most of his family during the Dominion War, including several of his sons. He wants to see Cardassia strong enough to never again bow beneath the heel of oppressors.
The Infiltration Branch of the Obsidian Order is responsible for short-term penetration, infiltration, and extraction missions. The Undercover Branch carries out long-term infiltration of other societies and organizations. Infiltration specializes in swift, silent raids and precision strikes against their chosen targets. Agents are trained in stealth and overcoming security measures as well as commando-style tactics. Infiltration agents carry out three major types of missions: reconnaissance, theft, and extraction of personnel, in their relative order of difficulty.
The head of the Infiltration Branch of the Order is Jora Kitrap, a Cardassian woman with considerable experience in infiltration and extraction operations. She is quite young for a branch-head, having only recently replaced her mentor, who had retired. Kitrap is pleased to see the militaristic government gone, and eager to use the resources of the Obsidian Order to help strengthen Cardassia.
The Internal Affairs Branch of the Obsidian Order is the best known, and most feared arm of the organization in Cardassian space. Its mandate is to maintain the rule of law and order (along with the rule of the Central Command and the Order) in the Cardassian Union. Internal Affairs once wielded vast power on Cardassia, but the events of the Dominion War have weakened its position considerably. Originally, Internal Affairs held almost complete control over the Cardassian law enforcement and judicial systems.
Not even high-ranking legates or members of the Detapa Council were beyond the reach of Internal Affairs, although the Obsidian Order needed more proof to bring down people in such influential positions.
The overthrow of the Central Command, followed closely by the Dominion alliance, severely weakened Internal Affairs. The Dominion placed the military, aided by Jem'Hadar enforcers, in charge of planetary security and law enforcement.
Things have changed since the Dominion surrender and withdrawal. The Detapa Council looks towards Internal Affairs for its experience in maintaining order and enforcing the law. The agents of this branch are once again influential in Cardassian society, although they do not have quite the latitude they once did, at least not publicly. The head of Internal Affairs, Doven Grissa, is working closely with the Council and civilian authorities to give the Obsidian Order as large a role in law enforcement as possible.
The Interrogation Branch - Few people can keep secrets from the Obsidian Order once it has them in one of its interrogation rooms. Agents of this branch are masters at questioning, manipulation, and physical and psychological torture intended to pry information from unwilling subjects, and to bend their minds in whatever way the Obsidian Order wishes.
While the Romulan Tal Shiar prefers technological methods for interrogation, such as mind probe devices, the limits of Cardassian neural technology require the Obsidian Order to make use of more "traditional" interrogation techniques. Agents of the Order consider this an advantage rather than a shortcoming, and many Cardassian interrogators takes a perverse pride in the "art" of torture and manipulation, a skill they have honed for many years.
In addition to extracting information, Cardassian interrogators employed their techniques as instruments of terror against enemies of the Cardassian Union. Political prisoners were often tortured to death during the Bajoran occupation, and Cardassians commonly made "examples" of those who defied them, in order to encourage fear in the population.
Like many branches of the Obsidian Order, the Interrogation Branch fell into disuse during the Dominion alliance. The Dominion preferred its own methods and personnel for interrogation of prisoners, so Cardassian interrogators went virtually unnoticed during the war.
The new civilian government on Cardassia Prime has driven these masters of torture and manipulation even further underground, although the Obsidian Order still retains their services. Torture is no longer considered one of the tools of the Cardassian Union, but the Order still counts it as one of their most useful.
The Sabotage Branch of the Order specializes in vandalism and terrorist attacks against enemies of the Cardassian Union, along with arranging "accidents" for the Order's political enemies. They work closely with both Infiltration and Assassination to carry out their missions. Sabotage agents take considerable pride in the elegance of a sabotage job well done, particularly work that can pass as normal equipment failure or something else, such as the destruction of a Romulan shuttle appearing to be the work of Dominion weapons rather than a carefully placed bomb.
Agents of this branch require considerable technical knowledge and training, in order to learn the weaknesses and different technologies. Agents learn about EPS waveguides, plasma manifolds, ship schematics, fusion reactions, antimatter injectors, and all the hundreds of different sub-systems where a damaged circuit or a carefully placed overload can cause a systems failure.
Cardassian saboteurs were surprisingly rare during the Dominion War. The Founders preferred to handle infiltration and sabotage work themselves since they could move virtually undetected, entering places even a trained agent would have difficulty with.
The Surveillance Branch of the Obsidian Order, at one time kept watch over every single man, woman, and child in the Cardassian Union. Even after the Dominion War, this branch remains one of the most powerful and influential of the Order, and remains the source of most of its political power.
Over the past century or so, the Surveillance branch built increasingly elaborate systems for keeping a watchful eye on the Cardassian populace. They still control a vast information network that includes viewing and listening devices across Cardassia Prime and throughout the Union.
Before the Dominion War, every Cardassian citizen was required to have a tooth extracted at the age of 10 and placed in the archives of the Obsidian Order. This gave the Order complete genetic samples for every member of Cardassian society. The Order could tune sensors and scanners to locate particular individuals with astounding accuracy, and they used genetic scans as a security measure, foiling non-Cardassian infiltrators.
Obsidian Order undercover agents agree to undergo surgical alteration to appear as members of other humanoid species, allowing them to infiltrate their society and acquire information. The expert Cardassian surgeons are able to make agents appear as nearly any humanoid species, although a medical examination or genetic scan will still reveal their true nature. Many Cardassian undercover agents operated for years without being detected on worlds such as Bajor, Qo'noS, and several Federation core worlds.
In some cases, undercover agents go a step further, undergoing treatments to give them false memories suited to their "cover identity." This prevents the agent from being detected by casual neural or telepathic scans, but it also completely suppresses the agent's true memories and personality. These undercover agents are not even aware they are Cardassians, much less agents of the Obsidian Order.
The mental treatments combined with Cardassian photographic memory ensures the agent will recall everything their experience while undercover. When their mission is complete, the agent is extracted and brought back to Cardassian space, where his or her true appearance and memory can be restored.
At its height, the Obsidian Order could call upon nearly the entire resources of the Cardassian Union. At present, the Order's resources are considerably more limited, but still formidable.
The Obsidian Order has bases and facilities throughout Cardassian space, and some resources outside the Union as well. These bases range from the extensive archives maintained on Cardassia Prime to simple safe houses hidden on planets in the Federation, the Klingon Empire, and Bajor Sector.
Although legally banned from maintaining military grade ships or weapons, the Order maintained a secret shipbuilding facility on Orias III for many years. Here the Order constructed a fleet of ships in cooperation with the Romulan Tal Shiar to launch a surprise attack on the Founders' home world. Changeling infiltrators discovered the plot, and led the Alpha Quadrant forces into a trap. The Order has largely abandoned the Orias facility, which was taken over by Dominion forces during the war.
The Obsidian Order also has several space stations located in isolated systems in Cardassian space. Most of these stations are small, used primarily for surveillance and as safe locations to conduct espionage activities. The secret nature of the Order's facilities kept most of them out of the hands of the Dominion, the Detapa Council, and the Central Command during and after the war.
One of the Order's greatest resources has always been its political influence. Before the Omarian Incident, the Order's power was unchallenged in the Cardassian Union. It existed entirely above the law, even the laws that supposedly defined its limitations (such as the ban against military ships and weapons). The Order's influence guaranteed cooperation from the government and even the Central Command in most matters.
Since the end of the Dominion war, the Obsidian Order's political influence has waned considerably. It no longer dominates the Cardassian government, and it is answerable to the Detapa Council both in fact as well as theory. However, the Order has by no means taken these setbacks lying down.
Its vast storehouse of information and its surveillance network allows the Obsidian Order to exercise great political power, mostly in the form of blackmail and secret influence over political leaders.
However, the Order is nothing if not skilled in survival, and it is a virtual certainty the current leaders of the Order will do their best to regain all they have lost, and more.