History:  Setlik III

An examination of a battle of the Cardassian Conflict

The history of Setlik III figures prominently in the life of Chief Miles O'Brien, and its repurcussions factored heavily into Federation affairs with the Cardassians in the 2360's.  Captain Benjamin Maxwell lost his family there, and a Cardassian agent was planted aboard the USS Rutledge, Maxwell's ship at the time.  

In 2367 Maxwell, now in command of the Nebula Class starship Phoenix, ended up engaging in a pre-emptive strike against the Cardassians, in part due to his continued bitterness with them as well as his learning of their rearmament.  In 2370, with the Maquis situation becoming a major concern for the Cardassian Union, both the agent and O'Brien's continued resentment of the Cardassians were used in an attempt to force the Federation to dismantle Federation colonies in the DMZ.

But what happened there?  The Federation calls it the "Setlik III Massacre".  Even the Cardassians quietly acknowledged that it was a mistake.  Further, when exactly did it happen?   Sources seem to disagree.

The best way to figure it all out is to take it from the top.  (Or, if you're lazy, to skip to the Conclusion.)  Below, we have the available quotes in chronological order.  On the left are the quotes, and on the right the commentary, starting with episode and year.

Mister O'Brien... I believe Captain Maxwell lost his family... during a raid on an outpost.

More like sabotage, sir. It was on Setlik III . . . a squad of Cardassian militia made a sneak attack on an outpost... wiped out close to a hundred civilians.

"The Wounded"[TNG4], 2367:  Here, we're told that an outpost was attacked by a squad of Cardassian militia.  There is no direct reference to a Starfleet presence, but the use of the term "outpost" does imply some sort of Federation military involvement.  However, O'Brien's use of the term "squad" to refer to the Cardassians implies a very small force.  In modern parlance that would generally indicate no more than 20 personnel.

O'Brien's reference to casualties does not indicate a Starfleet presence.  However, a hundred civilians killed would seem to indicate a very small settlement, and not one that would require more than a single quick battle to destroy even in street fighting.  

I was on Setlik Three.  With Captain Maxwell, the morning after the massacre. We got there too late, of course... almost everyone was dead... 

It was a terrible mistake... we were told the outpost was to be the launching place for a massive attack against us... 

The only people left alive were in an outlying district of the settlement... I was sent there, with a squad, to reinforce them. Cardassians were advancing on us, moving through the streets, destroying, killing... I was with a group of women and children when two Cardassian soldiers burst in... I stunned the one, but the other jumped me... we struggled... one of the women threw me a phaser and I fired...

The phaser was set at maximum. The man just... incinerated... there, before my eyes. I'd never killed anything before. When I was a kid I would worry about having to swat a mosquito. 

It's not you I hate, Cardassian. I hate what I became... because of you.

"The Wounded"[TNG4], 2367:  The USS Rutledge arrived on the scene the morning after the sneak attack.   There was still fighting in progress, however, at the edge of the settlement.  O'Brien notes that almost everyone was dead, and refers to an outlying district of the settlement, replete with its own streets.  Again, this suggests that the location was far more than just a tiny civilian colony world with around 100 civilians.  Either that, or Federation colony worlds are lavishly constructed . . . an idea we've not seen indicated previously.

The alternative would be that it was a larger colony, but that a significant portion of the population had departed, perhaps due to proximity to the border war zone.  This would allow the colony to be physically larger, but emptier.

There is no indication of escapees.

The Cardassian Daro is kind enough to apologize for the Cardassian attack.  However, if the location was the site of a Federation outpost and not a simple civilian colony world then it was a legitimate military target, even if their information about the site was flawed.  The only aspect that would be a mistake would've been the failure to avoid civilian casualties.

The situation would thus be somewhat similar to Cestus III.  There, an Earth observation outpost featuring a limited Starfleet presence sufferred a sneak attack by the Gorn in 2266.  

 In any case, O'Brien was sent with a "squad" to try to protect the survivors.  Setlik III was the scene of O'Brien's first kill.

We're not the same at all. We do not start wars. We do not make surprise attacks on manned outposts. We do not butcher women and children in their homes... children who never got the chance to grow up... You were on Setlik with me... you saw what they did... 

Yes, sir. 

What was the name of the fellow who hung on to you like a puppy? 

Will Kayden...Stompie. 

Stompie! As cool under fire as a mountain lake... 


He died at Setlik, didn't he... 


"The Wounded"[TNG4], 2367:   Here, Maxwell describes Setlik III as a manned outpost.  It still isn't clear, though, just what the role of Setlik III was.

Assuming it was a Federation outpost with Starfleet personnel, then the civilian casualties would've been the result of those personnel having their families there with them at a location too close to the front.

The possibility exists that the actual Starfleet installation was separate from the settlement itself . . . or that this was a small settlement that was a small part of a much larger presence elsewhere on the planet, or in orbit, or elsewhere in the system.  In short, we have too many questions and not enough answers.

The death of Kayden demonstrates that Rutledge personnel took part in the continuing combat, beyond the small encounter of O'Brien.

I can't believe the Cardassians would  ever attack a Federation outpost... 

Doctor, you ever studied your military  history of the border wars? Ever  heard of the Setlik Three massacre? 

I assume, Mister O'Brien, you would  agree that surrender is not a  preferable option... 

You know what they do to their  prisoners, sir...

"Emissary"[DS9-1], 2369:   Fresh from the Academy medical school, Bashir is quite naive and seemingly ignorant of Setlik.  At age 27, and assuming he entered the Academy at 18, Bashir would've been in the Academy since 2360.
It's not going to be easy for him.  He placed in the lower third of his  age group in mechanical aptitude... 

Good for him. So did I. 

You? Come on... 

No, it's true. It wasn't till I got  to the Cardassian front that I found  out I had talents I never knew I  had... 

At the front? 

It was a matter of figuring out how  to get a field transporter operational  in ten minutes or wind up a Cardassian  prisoner of war. Now, I didn't know  a transporter from a turbolift in  those days... but somehow, in nine  minutes and fifty-three seconds, I  got that thing to work. Got thirteen  men safely off the surface of Setlik  Three. Next thing I know I'm tactical  officer on the Rutledge. That's how  I got the gold suit.

"Paradise"[DS9-2], 2370:   This seems to be the source of the common date for Setlik III, given as 2347.  How?  Because it is generally taken in concert with O'Brien's statement to Barclay in "Realm of Fear"[TNG6] that he'd been "doing this for 22 years", taken to mean being a transporter operator.   However, if Setlik III did not occur in 2347, then that statement would have to be taken as something else . . . either an exaggeration reassuring Barclay, or a misunderstanding wherein he referred to both being beamed and being the beamer.

Speaking of being the beamer, of interest would be this field transporter that O'Brien mentions, not to mention its destination.   Is this a mobile transporter unit?   And if so, did he escape to the Rutledge?  Why were they unable to beam the party up themselves?

This implies that some sort of communications jamming may have been in effect.  The alternative would be that the Rutledge was engaged in combat, and O'Brien and company ended up beaming to an orbital facility of some sort.  However, none is known.  The other alternative would be that the Rutledge had been damaged and her transporters were offline.

Given O'Brien's construction of ships in bottles as a child, as well as his tinkering with subspace radio units as a youngster, the fact that O'Brien was considered to be less than apt in regards to mechanics and technology is somewhat odd.  It's possible that his interest as a child simply never developed into a proper understanding until he'd finally learned how it all came together, and this lack of understanding may have been considered a lack of aptitude in the test.

Still, it's somewhat disconcerting that the education system on Earth would fail to catch on to his capabilities that way.  That is, unless O'Brien's abilities are based more on hard work than aptitude.  This is supported by his comment in "Change of Heart"[DS9-7] that he became an engineer for the challenge of it.

Boone... ?  O'Brien! Miles O'Brien. We served on  the Rutledge together. 

O'Brien! Of course. It's been a  long time. How're you doin? 

Fine... fine... I work on this station  now. Chief engineer. 

You don't say... 

How long you been out of Starfleet? 

Almost eight years now. I've settled  on Volan Three. 

That's on the Cardassian side of the  Demilitarized Zone, isn't it... 

Yeah, the new treaty really puts us  in harm's way. But I'm running a  ladarium mining sluice. As long as  the Cardassians need ladarium for  their warp drives, they leave me  alone. 

After what we went through in the  border wars, I don't know how you  could live there. Were you there at Setlik Three? 

That's why I got out of Starfleet. 

Really. That's why I stayed in. Listen, my wife's meeting me at a  runabout... and she hates it when  I'm late... and I always am... 

I'm coming back for another supply  pickup in a month or two. 

Let me know when...

"Tribunal"[DS9-2], 2370:  Raymond Boone was a crewman on the Rutledge, and was there at Setlik III.

Just from this quote, it seems as if he left Starfleet shortly after Setlik III.   This would place Setlik III as being about eight years ago . . . 2362, in other words, and not 2347.

This Boone, incidentally, was merely a Cardassian spy.

You don't know how many times Miles  spoke to me about this... what the  Cardassians did to the prisoners  they took at Setlik Three... what  they were like when they came back...  the thought of it... it disgusted  him... it scared him...
"Tribunal"[DS9-2], 2370:  Keiko refers to O'Brien being haunted by the knowledge of the torture of the Setlik prisoners and the changes to them that he witnessed.

From this, we know there were prisoners taken at Setlik, prisoners who O'Brien saw after their return some unspecified time later.

What is this? 

I'd like Doctor Bashir to give you a  brief physical examination... 

What for? 

To help us answer some questions  about you. 

What are you talking about? 

For example, why you haven't spoken  to your parents in eight years... 

What's that got to do with anything...  I never got along with them... 

That's not what they told us... 

You also left your wife about eight  years ago... you'd been married a  long time... almost fifteen years,  wasn't it? 

Look, this is none of your business... 

And just about the same time, you  were discharged from Starfleet after failing several crew performance reviews... 

All of it seemed to happen shortly  after Setlik Three...

"Tribunal"[DS9-2], 2370:   The doctor's little exclamation point at the end seems to prove that Setlik III happened eight years ago.
When Doctor Bashir examined him, he  discovered that Boone was missing  his first molar. His DNA analysis  confirmed that he was Cardassian. 

He was surgically altered... ? 

Eight years ago, to replace the real  Raymond Boone who was taken prisoner  at Setlik Three... and apparently  killed in detention. 

How did you figure it out? 

His ex-wife told us he came back  from captivity a different man. She  blamed it on the treatment he received  from the Cardassians. But it started us thinking...

So he was spying for the Cardassians  even when he was on the Rutledge  with me...

"Tribunal"[DS9-2], 2370:   The issue of the first molar is established in the episode.  The Cardassian Bureau of Identification takes the first molar from Cardassians of the age of ten, and also removes the first molar from prisoners of the Cardassia.

This quote also establishes the date of the creation of the Cardie-Boone.

Chronologically, this exchange also supports the 2362 date. The alternative would be to theorize that Setlik III occurred in 2347 but that the prisoners were not released until 2362.  This 15 year captivity would have O'Brien serving on the Rutledge for 15 years, and would have Boone and other captured crewmen being put back into circulation as if nothing had happened . . . an idea that makes little sense.

Further, Sisko comments that Boone had been married for 15 years, and therefore the fact that Boone left his wife was suspicious.  However, if Setlik III were in 2347, then Boone would've just barely been married when he was captured, and 15 years in captivity surely wouldn't have enabled him to just say "hi honey, I'm home", if she were even available.  Thus, it would appear that he was not in prison for that amount of time.

The other pro-2347 alternative would be that he'd been married for 15 years prior to his capture.  However, that timeline doesn't work.  That would require 15 years of marriage, 15 years of captivity, and 8 years of post-captivity life.  Given Boone's appearance, this would mean that he would have had to have been married by no later than age 12 and probably sooner, which strikes me as rather unlikely to say the least.  

Further, it would make no sense for Cardie-Boone to go to Boone's wife at all after 15 years, and especially not if he were just going to leave her.

 . . . Et cetera.  Thus, we can only conclude that Setlik III had occurred eight years prior to "Tribunal", and thus had occurred in 2362.

There is some residual confusion, though, regarding Cardassian infiltration methods.  These are discussed in more detail below.

Chief, how many years have you been in Starfleet?


How many combat situations have you been in?

I couldn't even guess.


A hundred... a hundred and fifty.

For the record, Chief O'Brien has been in two hundred thirty-five separate engagements and has been decorated fifteen times by Starfleet. I would like to have him declared an expert in the area of starship combat.
"Rules of Engagement"[DS9-4], 2372:  Here, we have Chief O'Brien giving Federation courtroom testimony to a Klingon lawyer who quite obviously knew his record very well.

This tells us that Chief O'Brien joined Starfleet in 2350, and is a far firmer date than what he gave to Barclay.  Thus, the 2347 date for Setlik III simply cannot be correct, and even if we tried to adjust it by three years then O'Brien would've just entered the service prior to Setlik.  This would mean that he almost instantly rose to the position of tactical officer on the Rutledge as soon as he joined Starfleet . . . a concept which makes little sense.

On the other hand, it means that after 12 years in Starfleet, O'Brien had evidently never been involved in any engineering-related duties.  One wonders what precisely his role was.

Given that he was part of the squad on Setlik and rose to tactical officer, we could presume he was in security.  However, as O'Brien notes, he was wearing a color other than gold prior to the Setlik transporter incident.

(That, incidentally, also serves to disprove the 2347 date, thanks to the Starfleet uniforms of the era.  "Yesterday's Enterprise"[TNG3] shows us that the uniforms of 2344 were of the TMP era, with slight modification.  Per "Evolution"[TNG3], Wesley Crusher was born in 2349.  At that time, his father recorded holographic messages to him, which we saw in "Family"[TNG4].  The uniforms had not changed, though the commbadge had changed to the oval TNG version.  The first known use of the TNG-era uniforms was 2354, meaning that the uniforms changed sometime between 2349 and 2354.)

In any case, assuming O'Brien was in red or blue places certain constraints on what he was doing for twelve years.  Given that he went back to red when he arrived at the Enterprise-D and was serving as a helmsman, it is possible that he was doing something similar prior to becoming a tactical officer.  Unfortunately, we just don't know.

Chief, care to take on the winner?  I'd love to play Kotra against the  hero of Setlik Three.

What is that supposed to mean? 

Everyone knows your distinguished  war record -- how you led two  dozen men against the Barrica  encampment and drove out an entire  regiment of Cardassians. If you  play Kotra with half that  brazenness, I think we'd have  quite a match. 

That was a long time ago. 

But you're still the same man. 

I'm not a soldier anymore. I'm an  engineer.

"Empok Nor"[DS9-5], 2373:   Here, we get a completely new take on the Setlik III incident.  This episode features Garak going nuts from some Cardassian goo left on an old Cardassian station.  At this point, though, he's quite normal, and what he says about Setlik III is surprising.

We knew of Setlik III previously as a squad-level Cardassian action, featuring O'Brien in personal combat against two Cardassians upon being separated from his own squad from the Rutledge.  There was also reference to his emergency field transport of a dozen men to safety.

Now Setlik III is said to involve at least one entire Cardassian regiment, a term used in the modern US Army to denote an armored cavalry unit about 1500 strong.  This might be the Mechanized Infantry that Garak references in "The Wire"[DS9-2].  However many there were, O'Brien drove them away from their encampment with an attacking force totalling 25 men.  This would presumably have occurred after the incident with the two Cardassians, given that it would be likely to involve death.

Given the presence of a regiment with an encampment, we must either assume that the Cardassians landed in force, evidently intending to take the world altogether, or else that the battle for Setlik III began with a couple of squads duking it out followed by buildup by both sides on the planet's surface.  The former seems the more likely option, and would imply that only a small group of the Cardassian's total force was used in the original "massacre".

If he thinks he can "neutralize" the Cardassians -- let him try.  He'd be doing us all a favor. 

That's the spirit. Why don't you  come with me, Chief? Kill a few "Cardies," it'd be like  old times.  Wouldn't you like to avenge their  deaths? 

No.  I just want to get everyone  home. 

You're fighting your instincts, I  can see it. The hero of Setlik  Three is still inside there  somewhere. 

If you're going to go, go.

 "Empok Nor"[DS9-5], 2373:   Garak's starting to go a little nuts at this point.
Chief, why does Garak keep  bringing up Setlik Three? 

Because he wants to get under my  skin. 

But you were a hero, weren't you? 

That doesn't mean I like thinking  about what happened there. I was  a soldier, Nog, and sometimes  soldiers have to kill. 

Come now, Chief, don't be so modest. 

You did a lot of killing. 

How'd you get in here? Both doors are secure. 

"Secure" is such a relative term, wouldn't you agree?

 "Empok Nor"[DS9-5], 2373:   This seems to confirm that the Barrica battle involved killing, which would also point to it occurring after the fight in which the Cardassian soldier was vaporized.


Admit it -- you're a killer. We  both are. Behind your Federation  mask of decency and benevolence,  you're a predator -- just like me. 

I'm nothing like you. 

Oh, but you are -- you proved that  at Setlik Three. How many  Cardassians did you kill? Ten?  Twenty? A hundred? 

I don't remember... 

But you remember how it felt.  The Cardassians were killing your men,  and you had to stop them -- you  had to make them pay. Blood for  blood. You enjoyed killing them,  didn't you? You enjoyed watching  the life drain from their eyes. 

 "Empok Nor"[DS9-5], 2373:  Garak, having gone completely nuts, goads O'Brien into a fight.   

O'Brien seems to have killed more than just one man at Setlik.  After all, if he'd only killed one he would probably remember it very well.


Based on the evidence available noted above and from other episode references, we can engage in a bit of synthesis and a tad of guesswork to try to determine what happened at Setlik, and when.

The basic requirements are:

1.  Setlik III must be a world featuring some sort of Federation equipment . . . a comm array or a sensor post, at least . . . and no less that one settlement, probably mostly evacuated due to the Cardassian War.
2.  The Cardassians must be able to land a force unopposed and undetected (hence the "sneak attack").
3.  The "massacre" should not take more than one day (hence the "morning after").
4.  A squad should be used to attack the outpost, with a regiment presumably being available also.  This is overkill, but would (a) make sense based on the belief that Setlik was a staging area, and (b) serve to ensure control of the planet.
5.  The Rutledge must be able to send down a landing party virtually unopposed.  (While we can presume that Captain Maxwell would've beamed down to determine the fate of his family come hell or high water, it is unlikely that an away team could've been beamed down in the midst of ship-to-ship combat.)
6.  The Cardassian Barrica encampment and regiment must not be capable of being neutralized from orbit, either because it was not there yet, not detectable, or could not be attacked.  A likely cause for the latter would be if they were so near the settlement that their destruction would constitute a danger to potential survivors.
7.  The Cardassian O'Brien vaporizes must be his first kill.  This should occur during squad vs. squad action fairly soon after arrival.
8.  At some point, Raymond Boone must be captured by Cardassian forces.
9.  At some point or points, the Rutledge must be incapable of rendering aid to its landing parties.
10.  At some point, O'Brien and over a dozen others must be on the run from an overwhelming number of Cardassians.
11.  At some point after the squad vs. squad action and his first kill, O'Brien should find himself with two dozen men versus an entire Cardassian regiment, which he and his men manage to drive out.
12.  Starfleet prisoners should be taken, with enough time spent in detention to produce dark and foreboding changes to their psyches due to the treatment received.  Given Madred's actions against Picard in "Chain of Command, Pt. II"[TNG6] this need not be an excessively long time, but long enough.
13.  The prisoners should be released in some manner while O'Brien is still on the Rutledge, and thus before early 2364 (when O'Brien was on the Enterprise-D).  Given Bashir's statement, it's likely that they were released very soon after the Setlik encounter, if not during.

Making a cohesive narrative out of the above is a somewhat daunting task.   We can determine that it all takes place in 2362, but the impressions given by the various facts require exquisite caution to navigate.  For instance, 2362 places the "sneak attack" toward the end of the Cardassian conflict (2358-2362).  How can that be a sneak attack, save perhaps if it was a breaking of a truce?  Could it be that the location was deep inside Federation space, or a known civilian location?  There's no way to be sure, unfortunately.  

Also, the Boone issue and the prisoner issue seem to require an engagement which occurs over the course of at least several days.  Further, the idea of Boone being replaced seems to demand an infrastructure beyond that which one would expect to find on the battlefield, and thus implies that a Cardassian ship had to have arrived and been able to beam down at least one man.  However, if the Rutledge were in orbit then there should've been combat.

The lack of orbital support for Rutledge personnel . . . notable during O'Brien's emergency field transporter maneuver and the Barrica encampment engagement . . . would seem to require that the Rutledge be otherwise occupied in some way.  Either they were in hiding, in combat, or doing something outside the system somewhere.

The emergency evacuation via field transporter would seem to indicate that the Federation lost.  Then again, O'Brien's "hero" title and the recovering the prisoners taken at Setlik III would seem to indicate that they won.

So can a cohesive story be made of all of this?  I think so, though not everyone will necessarily agree with it . . . there are any number of possible narratives one could make, with varying outcomes, number of plot holes, et cetera.  But the simple fact is that we don't know enough to make any narrative perfect.   And thus, the below comes with the caveat that it is only one interpretation of the known canon facts:

Setlik III

The Cardassians came to Setlik III in force expecting a larger battle than what they found.  After taking the planet anyway (in what the Federation would call a "massacre"), the Cardassians left a regiment of the Cardassian Mechanized Infantry behind to secure the outpost's array, and they started to dig in near or within the Setlik settlement and try to make use of any intel they could get from the array, which was within or very near the settlement.  They set up some sort of sensor jamming equipment while doing so.  The Rutledge arrived upon hearing the distress call the outpost was barely able to send (and which the Cardassians may or may not have known about), dispatched any vessel that may have been present, and Maxwell's party beamed down to try to find out precisely what was going on.

Discovering the death of Maxwell's family and that survivors were still on the surface, the Starfleet crew began trying to figure out a way to beam them up.   Unable to do so directly, they'd need to find them.   O'Brien was part of a squad that found the civilians and the Cardassians, and some urban combat ensued.  During this combat, O'Brien kills a man for the first time.  O'Brien had been horrified and disgusted by the atrocities of the Cardassians, and now that mixed with his horror and self-loathing at having become a killer.   The latter redoubles the former, and for the first time O'Brien is genuinely enraged, quietly smouldering.

With the civilians beamed to the ship, however, they were not out of the fire.  The Rutledge came under attack from one or more Cardassian ships, and O'Brien's squad was thus stuck on the surface and severely outnumbered by Cardassians.  On the run and without starship support, the squad tried to hold out.  Raymond Boone is also probably captured at this stage, or else earlier during the urban combat.   The Rutledge was forced to break orbit, but continued the fight over the next several days.

O'Brien ends up taking charge of the unit after the death or capture of the leader. In orbit, meanwhile, the Rutledge emerged victorious, but damaged.  Her transporters were down, communications shaky at best, and the squad on the surface was in deep trouble.  Cardassian reinforcements had arrived while the Rutledge was engaged in battle.

Thus, O'Brien decided that the squad would have to beam up to the ship using a field transporter on the surface of Setlik III.  Various impressive maneuvers were employed to allow the squad to reach the unit . . . O'Brien's actions are effective and almost Cardassian in their ruthlessness.  None of the squad members remaining had much experience with field transporters, however, and thus Miles O'Brien somehow ended up taking on the job.   Just as an overwhelming force converged on their position, O'Brien got the 13 men remaining up to the ship.

With prisoners having been taken, the Rutledge's tactical officer dead, a sensitive piece of equipment in enemy hands at the outpost, and a captain who is quite displeased with the Cardassians, it is decided that they have to go back.  O'Brien was promoted to tactical, and began working on a plan.  In the interim, however, Starfleet ordered them to depart . . . transporters were still down, and the Rutledge was little more than a target should Cardassian ships reappear.  Further, the Rutledge was not thought have the ground warfare equipment necessary to take on the entire Cardassian military force on Setlik.   The Rutledge is ordered to rendezvous with additional Federation starships, and they'll all return in force within a handful of days.  It is a tough choice, but it is the only one that can be made.

Maxwell and O'Brien, however, concocted a plan that they believed would work.  O'Brien sized up the situation quickly and effectively, a trait Maxwell will later espouse in him.   A force of thirty men will land on the planet, setting up an explosive that will destroy the outpost's equipment and as many Cardassians as possible.  This explosion will be used as a diversion to enable O'Brien's party to try to rescue the prisoners before they are taken to Cardassian prison camps, as could very well occur before the Federation ships arrive.   The Rutledge crew will then run like hell, and either try to get back to the shuttle and make a run out of the system or hold out at some location of convenient terrain until they are rescued by the Federation force.  The plan is approved by Maxwell, and the men were sent down in a shuttle, landing some distance from the settlement.

The Cardassians, meanwhile, recognized that they were working under time pressure.  They learned that Federation ships were en route, and also knew that the only thing keeping the orbiting Federation ship from blowing them to bits was the collection of prisoners they were holding.  With the Cardassian fleet weakened by the four long years of war at this point, the strategic situation was not good at Setlik . . . it was decided that the men on the surface would have to be withdrawn.  The planet was theirs, but it simply could not be held.   The military is furious . . . they'd sent enough ships the first time around to make a fight of it if the planet had been a proper staging area, but now those forces were engaged elsewhere and a Federation outpost's comm/sensor array just wasn't enough of a target to fight over.

However, the situation was viewed as an opportunity by some.   To be sure, the Federation prisoners at Setlik had been treated the same way Cardassians treated all their prisoners of war . . . badly.   One of them had died.   Some bright spark in the Cardassian military or Obsidian Order decided that he could be replaced.  Cardassians were always on the lookout for such opportunities . . . whereas they lagged behind the Federation in brute strength, they possessed certain advantages in indirect arenas.   And with the Federation having maintained the war as a costly stalemate for the Cardassians, any advantage that would allow the Cardassians an overwhelming jab into Federation territory could be the key to forcing the Federation to surrender and allow the Cardassians to demand what they wanted from them.  Hence the frequent use of operatives for information gathering, mayhem, et cetera.

With time of the essence, an operative had been quickly chosen.  With information sent from Setlik, a Cardassian is transformed into a dead man who now seems to be very much alive . . . Raymond Boone.  It is decided to skip the usual memory alteration . . . they do not have Boone on-hand, and thus cannot extract his memories beyond what the militia's interrogators had been able to get from Boone before his death.  This operative would thus have to use all of his guile to believably pass as Boone.  The operative was loaded onto a ship, and while en route the final touches were placed.

Meanwhile, O'Brien's men trudged through the terrain to the Setlik settlement, which took a fair amount of time.  They'd managed to avoid Cardassian pit traps, despite the fact that tricorder readings were limited through the Cardassian jamming and their own efforts to hide themselves. Upon approaching the settlement, they decided to wait until evening to move in and plant the explosive.

That evening, the explosive was planted at the array.  However, O'Brien's team realizes that the prisoners are being held too close to the array to guarantee their safety when the array is destroyed . . . a clever and intentional move on the part of the Cardassians, and one which had been feared.   While O'Brien tried to deal with this contingency, however, a member of the bomb-planting group was discovered en route to O'Brien's position, and the battle was joined.

The fight was not going well for the Rutledge crew.  Men were getting hurt and dying as the Cardassians somewhat randomly bombarded the area where the Federation troop had been headed, and Cardassian skimmers and assault vehicles were headed their way.   Some passed between the comm array and the prison area very near the latter, effectively shielding it from much of the potential blast.   O'Brien blew the outpost's array at that point, damaging the Cardassian vehicles.  But with the original plan of a quiet jailbreak out the window, O'Brien's options had narrowed.

To survive, the wisest move would've been to run like hell, leaving the prisoners behind.  Even if that had been the plan, however, there were enough Cardassian patrols grouping at the rear periphery of the settlement to make the escape time-consuming, and the risk of their location being pinpointed ridiculously high.   O'Brien, with his fascination for hopeless battles, came up with an idea that seemed ludicrous at first glance.  The Cardassians would expect the Federation force to try to escape now that they'd blown the array, either "running the blockade" of the patrol groups or finding some other undefended route of escape.  O'Brien noted that the Cardassian vehicles seem to be deploying in a pattern designed to cut off such routes. 

Therefore, that is exactly what O'Brien didn't do.  He moved his men directly toward the encampment, carrying the fight directly to the heart of the enemy.  The details at this point are sketchy, but O'Brien's force drove off the Cardassians of the Barrica encampment and recovered the weakened prisoners including one Raymond Boone.  Using the Cardassian equipment, they rigged another explosion, running like hell before Barrica became one.

With the Cardassian base camp destroyed and the prisoners in Federation hands just as had been desired, the Cardassians withdrew and were picked up.  By the time the Federation ships arrived, there was little for them to do.

Maxwell, O'Brien, and the prisoners of Barrica all had difficulties adjusting to life after Setlik III for various reasons.   One person seemed to have more trouble than most . . . Raymond Boone.  But no one was suspicious of this . . . everyone who was a prisoner of the Cardassians had come back changed.   Boone was released from Starfleet service . . . no one knew, though, that the Cardassians were infuriated by their operative's failure.  He was left to live as a human civilian, and in that role he cut off ties with the family of the man he'd replaced, moving to the DMZ to spy there.   His next actions of import occurred when he took part in an operation designed to embarrass the Federation in regards to the Maquis ("Tribunal"[DS9]).  At DS9 he was unmasked in 2370, and delivered to Cardassia where he was probably executed, assuming Sisko left him behind.

Maxwell, of course, shows up in "The Wounded"[TNG4], wherein he takes his ship into Cardassian space to wage a personal war when he comes to believe that the Cardassians are rearming.

O'Brien eventually comes to regret his actions as a soldier, and having killed.  Transferring from the Rutledge, he joins the Enterprise-D crew as a conn officer in 2364, and then later a transporter operator.   He takes the tactical position again during the Romulan encounter in the Klingon Civil War, but does not remain there.  He prefers engineering instead, and eventually gets a chief engineer posting on a new Federation outpost at Bajor.

Raymond Boone and Cardassian Infiltration Techniques

In "Tribunal"[DS9-2], after Sisko and Bashir checked with Raymond Boone's ex-wife and parents, they became suspicious.  They wondered whether, beyond his ex-wife's statement that he'd come back from Cardassian captivity a different man, that perhaps it was really a different man who had come back.  Hence the following, repeated from the above table for ease of reference:

Sisko:   "I'd like Doctor Bashir to give you a brief physical examination." 
Boone:  "What for?" 
Sisko:   "To help us answer some questions about you." 
Boone:  "What are you talking about?" 
Bashir:   "For example, why you haven't spoken to your parents in eight years..." 
Boone:  "What's that got to do with anything... I never got along with them..." 
Bashir:   "That's not what they told us..." 
Sisko:    "You also left your wife about eight years ago... you'd been married a 
               long time... almost fifteen years, wasn't it?" 

Boone:   "Look, this is none of your business..." 
Sisko:     "And just about the same time, you were discharged from Starfleet after 
                failing several crew performance reviews..." 

Bashir:    "All of it seemed to happen shortly after Setlik Three..."

Later, Sisko describes the examination:

Sisko:      "When Doctor Bashir examined him, he discovered that Boone was 
                missing his first molar. His DNA analysis confirmed that he was Cardassian."
Keiko:     "He was surgically altered ?" 
Sisko:      "Eight years ago, to replace the real Raymond Boone who was taken prisoner 
                at Setlik Three... and apparently killed in detention."
O'Brien:   "How did you figure it out?"
Sisko:      "His ex-wife told us he came back from captivity a different man. She blamed 
                 it on the treatment he received from the Cardassians. But it started us thinking..."

O'Brien:   "So he was spying for the Cardassians even when he was on the Rutledge with me..."

A.  Jackson's Jealousy

Dude, it's 2370, not 1970.To the left is the Cardassian version of Raymond Boone.  He looks completely human, if even completely out of touch with fashion . . . a vast improvement over modern examples of extensive plastic surgery.   By even having that mustache and retro hairdo, he demonstrates that the Cardassian alteration techniques aren't bad at all . . . the only known locations for Cardassian facial hair are from the corners of the mouth to the jowl.  This suggests that follicles have not only been moved, but altered . . . the hair is brown, not black.

Of course, that's not the most impressive change by far.  The removal of the thick neck cords, and the probable rerouting of musculature and arteries, could not be an easy task.  Altering the forehead to remove the ridges and to prevent it from becoming turgid when a Cardassian is excited (as described in Pathways) must also be an involved matter.  Further, Cardie-Boone was rather expressive with his eyebrows, which is something that would be unusual for a Cardassian who has none.

And, of course, there would be the alterations of skintone and various other bits and pieces.  Below we see various views of the many differences, including a look at the differences below the neck (but in view of a plunging neckline), as well as evidence of skull and skeletal differences.  (My apologies for the juxtaposition of a Cardassian hottie and a Cardassian corpse.)

B.  The Horse's Mouth

The first clue that Sisko later describes regarding Boone is the absence of a first molar.   The Cardassian Bureau of Identification is said to take the first molar from Cardassians at the age of 10, but as we see in "Tribunal" they also do it to prisoners.  Miles O'Brien, during his "processing" upon reaching Cardassia, has a tooth extracted. 

So why would the discovery of Boone's missing molar surprise them and point to him being a Cardassian?  Wouldn't it just mean that he'd been a prisoner, just like everyone knew?

The solution is fairly simple.  We can presume that prisoners of war on the battlefield are not processed in keeping with the Bureau of Identification's methods.  After all, O'Brien's processing occurred as a prelude to his trial on Cardassia, which would be a special circumstance.   If so, then the revelation of the missing molar would have to mean that either (a) Boone had been fully processed as if for a trial, and had thus probably been taken somewhere besides Setlik, or (b) he was a Cardassian masquerading as Raymond Boone.  

This molar issue raises two additional questions:

1.  How did the Rutledge crew miss the missing molar?   Surely Cardie-Boone was examined by a doctor upon his return.   If that's a sign of someone being processed by the Bureau of Identification, then shouldn't that have raised a flag?  

Well, probably not . . . given O'Brien's surprise at the impromptu dental work he received upon reaching Cardassia, the molar thing might not have been known when Setlik III occurred.  The fact that O'Brien didn't know also supports the notion that POWs are not processed that way . . . O'Brien knew the Setlik III prisoners, and thus ought to have learned of the tooth extraction that would've been performed on all of them.  Since he didn't, it's likely that it did not occur.

2.  Are Cardassian infiltration techniques so poor that all you have to do is look in the proverbial horse's mouth?  After all, if Cardie-Boone was missing his first molar, then it would seem to follow that all other Cardassian operatives would have the same dead-giveaway.  Forget blood screenings as used for Founders . . . all you'd need to find a Cardassian in your midst would be one of those mirrors-on-a-stick that dentists use.

This would be even worse than Klingon infiltration techniques of the 2260's . . . in "The Trouble with Tribbles"[TOS2], Klingon Intelligence at least had the good sense to hide their agents' Klingon attributes inside the torso.  If all it took was a look in the mouth a hundred years later, the Cardassian agents might as well have kept spoons taped to their heads.

In all seriousness, though, we know from other examples that the Cardassians go to great lengths to alter the appearance of their agents, as seen in the case of Seska and Boone . . . and they do far more than just skin-deep work.  And so, it's likely that either (a) the Rutledge medical personnel noted the missing molar, but had no idea what it meant, or (b) some sort of artificial tooth was in its place as part of Boone's cosmetic alterations, and Bashir discovered it.  The latter option seems most likely.

C.  Physiology and Genetics

McCoy:  "Heartbeat's all wrong, his body temperature is . . . Jim, this man is a Klingon!"

In 2266, unmasking Klingon operatives was none too difficult.  A simple tricorder scan was sufficient to show that a person was not human.  One would expect that any self-respecting intelligence service would hope to improve on this in the next century.  Of course, this is no small task . . . though the various races of the Alpha Quadrant are all based on some similar genetic seed material ("The Chase"[TNG6]), the end results have varied considerably.  From blue-blooded Bolians to green-blooded Vulcans and Romulans to red-blooded humans, the differences can be striking.  Beyond the color and composition of the blood, there's the plumbing involved.  A Romulan agent who wanted to have a Terran heartbeat, for instance, would have to have his heart moved, his pulse slowed by at least half, and his blood pressure boosted.  (Spock's pulse was 242 with a practically non-existent heartbeat in "The Naked Time"[TOS1], his heartbeat was inaudible in "The Omega Glory"[TOS3], and McCoy once pointed up beneath his ribcage to indicate the location of the Vulcan heart in an episode whose name escapes me.  In "A Private Little War"[TOS2], this was explicitly referenced as a Vulcan's heart being where the human liver would be.)

And, of course, that sort of thing just covers the most major landmarks . . . the major organs.  Dozens of other changes would have to occur to allow a Trek alien to masquerade as a human, from structural changes to the bones and connective tissues all the way to biochemical alterations.  Things like the sweat glands and pheromones would have to be changed, and the blood would at least have to look human if even at a glance.  For instance, one could go to all the trouble of transforming a Bolian into a human . . . removing the ridge, changing the skin tone, even removing the cartilaginous lining of the tongue ("Flashback"[VOY3]).   However, if they bled blue or were as unkind to their lavatories as the occasional joke in later Voyager seasons would indicate, then it would be a dead giveaway.

We can probably assume that most such biochemical changes were virtually impossible in the 2260's given the difficulty in supplying Sarek with Vulcan T-negative blood during his heart operation in "Journey to Babel"[TOS2].  However, by the 2370's, Voyager's holographic doctor reports that there have been occasions when artificial blood was unavailable, and thus cross-species blood transfusions were performed by way of genetic alteration to existing blood cells ("Prototype"[VOY2]).  He implies that even Vulcan to Bolian transfusions had been performed.

Such huge alterations to a living thing's DNA bring us to the issue of genetics.  After all, even if you can perform the massive amounts of surgery required to reroute the plumbing of the internal organs, modify the bone structure, and so on and so forth . . . in short, virtually rebuilding the person . . . it would all be for naught if a quick peek at the genome showed that the person wasn't really of the species they appeared to be.

And yet, all Sisko says in "Tribunal" is that the DNA analysis confirmed that Boone was a Cardassian.  That's a bit disconcerting.  Taken at face value, the quote would seem to imply that there had been no DNA modification performed on the Cardie-Boone.

We know that intra-species DNA modifications are quite possible.  For instance, "Bloodlines"[TNG7] tells us of Daimon Bok's resequencing of Jason Vigo's DNA to make him appear to be the son of Captain Picard.  The resequencing showed up on a micro-cellular scan, executed to try to explain the neurological disorder that the flawed resequencing technique had caused. There's also the resequencing of Kurn's DNA in "The Sons of Mogh"[DS9-4], performed by Bashir along with memory deletion, to make him a member of another Klingon house.  The memory deletion took about an hour, the cosmetic and DNA alterations another five.

What about inter-species changes?  Well, in addition to the blood cells mentioned above, we have evidence of the Cardassians transforming entire people.  Seska, a Cardassian who infiltrated the Maquis, was surgically and genetically altered to appear Bajoran in the 2360's.  The alterations were either imperfect or impermanent, however . . . Seska lacked certain Bajoran blood factors in 2371, and a story about Bajoran Orkett's Disease and a marrow transplant from a sympathetic Cardassian woman had to be invented to cover it up ("State of Flux"[VOY1]).    Then there's "Second Skin"[DS9-3], which gives a thorough run-down of Obsidian Order long-term operative preparation as of 2361.   It includes alteration of memories, appearance, and physiology, all of which would've been sufficient to allow Kira (or Iliana Ghemor) to masquerade as a Bajoran during the resistance and during over two years on DS9 without incident.  (A simple injection of a special medication was sufficient to allow the normal memories to return.)  This would include surviving genetic identification in "A Man Alone"[DS9-1], having the DNA of the real Kira compared to the supposedly-fake one in "Second Skin", et cetera.  As Obsidian Order operative Entek put it:  "is there anything that I've said we've done that's beyond the capabilities of the Obsidian Order? I assume you know there isn't."

The way it seems to work, there are basically three different versions of genetic engineering or alteration in Star Trek:

1. Altering a living thing's genome.

This seems to be rare or troublesome, though not impossible.  Recall Crusher's exclaimed "His DNA is being rewritten!!"("Best of Both World, Pt. II"[TNG4]).  Sure, she could activate T-Cells ("Genesis"[TNG7]) and whatnot, but hardcore re-authoring of one's genetic code seemed to be a rare concept.   By Voyager it's pretty common for small stuff (such as the aforementioned blood cells), but not so much for bigger things.  They were still worried in "Threshold"[VOY2] by DNA being rewritten on a living thing.

This makes sense . . . after all, hardcore screwing around with someone's DNA can't possibly be good for them unless you're very careful.  A common result of mutagenics (i.e. stuff that changes your DNA) in the modern world is cancer.  Another one that could be expected by the sort of changes that would be required to transform one humanoid species into another would be death.  After all, it would involve foreign protiens and compounds entering the not-yet-fully-transformed body . . . the complexity of keeping everything working during the transformation is mind-boggling.

Even within a species, such alterations don't always work in Trek.  Not only is there the neurological disorder of Jason Vigo to consider, but there are also the changes made to the "Jack Pack" from "Statistical Probabilities" and other DS9 episodes.  These were people who had been altered just as Dr. Bashir had been as a child, but the alterations did not work as well.  The problems were not life-threatening for them, but one can imagine that they were for other children.

2. Re-engineering the genome of something not-alive and then making something out of it.

This part seems relatively easy. For instance, the Darwin Station children, Khan, et cetera.  (This is also the idea behind Jurassic Park.)  You could even count messing with something in the womb (like Torres' baby) in this.  Anti-abortionists might flip at this, but the fact is that the zygote proto-person thingy, at a sufficiently early stage, is still undeveloped enough for the DNA to be altered without the zygote as a whole really noticing.  

3. Repairing damage from something that was doing #1 (Borg assimilation, 8472 smackings, horny Transwarp catfish (which seems like a good name for a band), Darwin Station aging disease, etc).

This is portrayed as fairly readily do-able, provided you have some of the original DNA to work with. In reality, this should be almost as much of a pain in the butt as #1.

Regarding Boone, we are thus left with two possibilities.  Option one is that Cardie-Boone was created in a quick-and-dirty fashion and no one from the Rutledge or elsewhere ever bothered to do a medical scan, a blood test, or anything of the sort, whether upon his return from captivity or after his failure of various crew performance evaluations.  Option two is that the suspicions of Bashir and Sisko led them to conduct more-extensive-than-normal scans, such as a micro-cellular scan, and they deduced his true DNA patterns from the information provided.

Given the known techniques of the Cardassians, the known protocols of the Federation, and so on, option two is the only one which makes sense.

D.  Conclusions

Cardassian infiltration techniques can be almost equally effective to the Founder's shapeshifter methods, albeit only effective as being one person at a time.   With memory alteration, cosmetic and internal reconstruction, and DNA resequencing, an intelligence operative could theoretically do very well at passing for a member of another species, especially in lower-security environments where deep scans are not relatively commonplace.   Their methods are not foolproof, but if an agent can be placed who not only completely resembles the original but also believes they are the original, then you have effectively replicated the other person with a "sleeper" agent.   Even without such memory alterations, the possibilities are undoubtedly disturbing for Federation Intelligence.


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