Ship Closeup – USS Gorkon

Ship Closeup – USS Gorkon

“wa’ Dol nIvDaq matay’DI’ maQap.” (We succeed together in a greater whole.)
– Klingon Proverb

The USS Gorkon was first launched on Stardate 239207 (July 2015) under the command of Captain Quinn Reynolds. Named in honour of the famed Klingon chancellor who forged peace between the Klingon Empire and the Federation and acts as warrior, peacemaker, and visionary. Today Rear Admiral Quinn Reynolds, Commander Jo Marshall, along with other members of the crew join us to tell us more about this storied vessel.

DeVeau: Thank you for joining us. Can you please start by giving us a short overview on the USS Gorkon and how it fits into our fleet?

Reynolds: Sure! The Gorkon launched in mid-2015 (stardate 239207) as the successor to the USS Victory, when I assumed command of the crew. We operate in the Tyrellian region, which is the other side of Klingon space to our eponymous starbase, and it’s a Sovereign-class starship in a similar configuration to the Enterprise as we last saw it in Star Trek: Nemesis, with a few modifications to offer more versatility in its mission profile.

The USS Gorkon was launched under your command when you were a Captain. Why did you choose this particular class of ship?

I was torn between a Sovereign-class (an iconic and beautiful ship from canon) and the Scryer-class from Star Trek Online (to hark back to Quinn’s intelligence officer role). In the end, I plumped for the Sovereign as it’s more recognisable and less niche; there’s a wealth of imagery out there as inspiration, and offers us all kinds of options when it comes to running missions.

We know the ship is named in honour of Chancellor Gorkon. What inspired you to choose this name?

One thing that’s always struck me is how we see a lot of starships in the TV shows and elsewhere named for very human things—famous people and places from Earth—and rarely do we encounter ships that honour the diverse nature of the Federation. We have had a few in the fleet, like the USS Avandar, which is named for a moon of Betazed, and it was a tradition I wanted to carry on.

When I was choosing a name for the ship, it came down to a choice of two: the Gorkon, as a Klingon chancellor who had ambitions of peace and cooperation; and the Kumari, named for the Andorian battle cruiser seen in Enterprise, which came has a proud lineage of ships named Kumari on Andoria. Gorkon won out, because the name seemed to fit a powerful ship like a Sovereign; capable of strength, but always striving to find a diplomatic solution.

How does this class of ship affect what missions and plots you write?

Not that much, to be honest! We mostly plot our missions based on scenarios we think the crew will have fun wrestling with, and that often means we’re formed into away teams and operating away from the ship. When it is relevant, we’re conscious that the Sovereign is one of the powerful classes Starfleet fields, and so we craft problems that sheer power or advanced technology can’t fix in an instant.

Commander Jo Marshall, you’ve been the ship’s first officer for two years, but have been a member of the ship since you joined SB118. What are some of your favourite memories of the Gorkon?

Marshall: Far too many to count! I’ve loved every second I’ve been part of the dream team of Gorkonites, rocking around the galaxy atmosphere, doing our thing. Every mission has its own special place in my heart for one reason or another, whether that’s the intense amounts of world building we can do (like borrowing heavily for our Dinosauria mission) or getting down to the bare bones of what motivates our characters (see Skarbek parts one, two and three), it’s been a real blast. I’ve made some lifelong friends and it’s great to see our Gorkon family go from strength to strength.

How do you incorporate your role as First Officer on the ship and how do you foster relationships between yourself and your crew members?

It’s a funny role when you step into it for the first time, because up to this point, you’ve done everything you think you need to know to be the right hand to the CO. Then, you get in the role and discover this whole other side of the management of a ship you never thought could exist. It becomes this balancing act, juggling between still taking part as a crew member and being a functional member of the leadership team, while also keeping track of the year as it progresses, bringing up highlighted events, getting everyone in the mood for the various activities we have around the ‘Fleet, among a host of other things.

I really try to be a facilitator for everyone during our missions and shore leave, encouraging people to share their stories and shape the plot we’re collaborating on. Everyone on the ship gets on so well together so it’s easy to lose myself in just hanging out and having fun with my friends. My Discord/Email door is always open for some cool ideas we can put together, and I can be the biggest cheerleader or the ass-kicking motivator when needed. I’m like a glorified prodding stick.

Lt. Commander Samira Neathler, you’re the chief of Security & Tactical. What sort of scenarios has the ship been thrust into, and how have you written in regards to the ship’s performance capabilities to handle what’s thrown at it?

Neathler: Most of our missions actually take place off the ship. Probably because our Skipper is afraid we’ll wreck the ship too much when we stick around. In the time I’ve been with the Gorkon, I’ve seen a multitude of scenarios.

When I joined the ship, they threw me in the deep end immediately, because all our characters were in a dreamverse in the time that the Maquis still thrived around the universe and we could lead a life totally different from our Starfleet character. I’m afraid some of Sami Maquis seeped through in Starfleet Sami, because I had the intention to write her a bit more cheerful than she is. We’re currently even writing our third mission in the Maquis scene and we all love it. Well, I’ve not heard anyone complain about it, I’ll put it that way.

Our characters encountered a hungry bunch of space crabs, introduced by one of our writers, while we tried to survive on a ship drifting upside down in some poisonous gas nebula. We’ve met the Orion Syndicate a few times on a pirate asteroid named Nassau, where our characters had to go undercover as pirates themselves.

In another mission we had to investigate some missing miners and a strange occurrence with the wildlife on a Romulan and Federation colony. We’ve put up a search mission for our missing Admiral and somewhere in between we also visited our version of Jurassic Park, but luckily no-one lost any limbs there. Some scratches were gained, but otherwise everyone survived.

In some scenes one might think the Chief of Security/Tactical will go in, gun blazing, and shoot down any aggressors on the spot, but that’s something I like to avoid. We’re all writing the same scene, so I try to give the others the opportunity to write their own part too. It’s not the first time that Samira ends up with not having a clear shot, and someone else has to step in and lose a wig or something on the way.

Nor is Samira afraid to admit that others in her department are superior in the use of certain weapons. Which gives me the opportunity as a writer to interact with the writer of that other character and have Samira follow some lessons.

I’m still getting used to the Second Officer position. I don’t think I’ve simmed anything particular in that status. If I’d write about it, I’d want it to have meaning, without Samira blurting out she’s the Second Officer while those words actually don’t add anything to the scene. But I’m sure somewhere, somehow, it’ll pop up one day.

Lt. Commander Jona ch’Ranni, as Chief Operations officer, what sort of interesting situations have you come across when trying to keep the ship running efficiently? 

ch’Ranni: There are several departments on a Starfleet vessel – command, medical, security, science, and engineering. And then there is everybody else. I’m the chief of everybody else. I believe Operations is an amazing career path. Ops officers deal with the nuts and bolts of running a ship – well, everything except the literal nuts and bolts because that’s the engineers’ job. I find myself simming activities that would be a part of running a starship – inventory, logistics of supplies, power regulation, and coordination of shipboard facilities. While these may sound like dull subjects to some, they really get to the heart of making our adventures seem less science fiction and more potential future reality. It’s important and fulfilling work. The ship that blows up the fastest is staffed with only security officers. (No offense, Samira)

Because Operations covers such a wide swath of activities, I often find Jona in his office poring over reports. I can throw in details seen in other characters’ sims that would have crossed his desk – like the time that some characters purchased a large item at a starbase on shore leave, so Jona had to approve the use of the cargo transporters to bring it aboard. On one occasion we recovered our stolen and damaged captain’s yacht from some pirates, so he oversaw the transport of the vessel to a repair facility. Then there was the time I arranged for a cooking club onboard or a triathlon competition during shore leave. Sure, these kinds of details are assumed to happen in the background off-camera, but when they are mentioned directly in a sim, it can make the story more real and more enjoyable for all. One bonus to my assignment is that I could show up in the background of any sim, at any moment, with the excuse that Jona’s duties have brought him there! You all have been warned.

Lt. Commanders Ayiana Sevo and Cory Stoyer, you’ve served as mission specialists on the USS Gorkon. What unique opportunities to serve has your character had on the ship?

Sevo: This has been a hard question to answer, as I am still relatively new to the position. But in short, I’ve come to see the Mission Specialist position as a sort of amalgamation of science, security, and tactical. Ayiana has to be ready for different potential situations, and provide information, assessment, and suggestions to the CO or team leader. Her first mission as MS was to a park that specialized in cloning extinct animals (Jurassic Park in Space). I tried to write her as having prepared for the mission by having her study up on palaeontology and genetics, and study what the other teams’ jobs were in the park. She also had to prepare for curve balls (this is the Gorkon, of course things don’t go as planned!), like escape routes or tactical planning.

That is a key part of the Mission Specialist job; she has to know what the rest of the away teams are doing, and what their jobs are on the mission. If a mission wasn’t planned, and she suddenly finds herself in a situation, she needs to quickly assess the dangers, gather sensor information of the area if possible, and try to establish contact with all known parties. She’s basically the crew’s information and logistics planner on the ground.

All in all, I’m still learning the job and figuring out how to put my own spin on it, but I find it fun and challenging. Ayiana has developed an affinity for weaponry and tactics. Coupled with her scientific background, Mission Specialist is a perfect merging of her abilities and knowledge.

Stoyer: I have been given many opportunities to serve in various positions onboard the Gorkon. After reporting onboard, I was assigned as the acting Chief Engineer, but a couple of days later was given the position permanently. I hardly had any training as an engineer. This was an opportunity to learn to lead the Engineering Department and how to be an engineer. The biggest challenge I faced as Chief Engineer was during what has been termed as the “Year in Hell”. My department was holding the Gorkon together with what seemed like dreams and duct tape.

After switching to the Mission Specialist position, this was something completely outside what I was used to. Supporting the Captain and First Officer with information was a definite challenge. I worked with several officers on away missions. I remember leading a team of Romulans to fight a massive fire in one of their science stations. That is something that The Academy doesn’t teach. One of the biggest opportunities I told onboard the Gorkon was a chance to get into a deep character development. Cory was demoted to Lieutenant in character, giving me a chance to work and develop Cory’s story more. Cory was moved from Mission Specialist back to helm, where he was trained in the Academy. So he is back doing what he loves.

Ensign Tahna Meru, you recently joined SB118 and have found yourself as a part of the science department on the Gorkon. How have you been finding your experience, and what would you like to share about your ship?

Meru: I was very nervous about “fitting in” when I joined but the whole crew welcomed me with open arms (and a kidnapping, but hey, that was fun too). When shore leave came around I wasn’t really sure what to do but then so many people reached out and offered to sim a shore leave plot with me that I never once felt left out. They even encouraged me to send a solo sim that I ended up pretty proud of. The crew of the Gorkon are amazing writers who have been more welcoming and supportive than I could have imagined and I feel very lucky that I get to write with them!

Lieutenant Loxley and LtJG Serren Tan, you’ve both actually been in SB118 for a number of years and served in a variety of capacities. How has your experience on the Gorkon compared to those on other ships?

Loxley: I’ve written three very different primary characters over the years on several unique ships. The community of SB118 is amazing, but each individual ship is a microcosm of that community and can differ. I think it’s down to two elements – the leaders and the players (and, yes, leaders are players too!)

I’ve been privileged enough to have served as a Commanding Officer in the past so I have been behind the curtain and seen how things work and I know it’s akin to the analogy of the swan – calm grace on the surface, frantic paddling underneath to keep things moving.

On the Gorkon, that paddling has been transformed into one of the most impressive sets of spreadsheets I have ever seen! Which is a roundabout way of saying it’s incredibly well-organised? As a player, that sense of organisation really comes through and you get the definite feeling that there is a plan, that things are happening for a reason. And that’s definitely helped by the occasional recurring plot point and villain. Those things give a sense of continuity to the story of the USS Gorkon.

The other element that makes up the experience of any ship is, of course, us! The writers and players. And this makes each ship unique. It’s hard to define how the Gorkon compares to other ships I’ve served on, because they have all been so different, but it’s safe to say that there is a solid sense of support and creativity, including some of the most in-depth NPC storylines I’ve come across in a decade. As a creative environment, and a group of writers, it reminds me most of my first posting, the USS Ronin, back when everything was new and just a little awesome.

During my time with SB118 I have seen loads of positive points of this place as a writing community, a gaming community, and just as a bunch of fans enjoying the same shared interests. There have been more than a few bad points, too, but definitely a minority. The Gorkon fantastically combines those positive elements.

Of course, Loxley is a Human/Vulcan hybrid, so if all of that was a bit wordy for you, I can offer you the Vulcan response instead; How has your experience on the Gorkon compared to those on other ships? “Favourably.”

Tan: Oh boy, “Hey Tan, who’s your favourite child?”. What a question! The answer, though, is actually pretty simple: each ship is unique, each ship has a different feel and a unique style. What makes the Gorkon different is that, so much more than other ships, the notion that she’s the flagship plays a much larger role. Rather than being a part of a larger fleet, the Gorkon is the head of the fleet, and the command staff leans into this.

On a more structural note, the ship’s missions heavily focus on groups of three or four during missions and shore leave events, with the groups being sorted out in advance. We avoid bridge scenes, briefing scenes are (mostly) avoided and given OOCly, and everyone sticks to their teams. I didn’t think I’d like this change going in, as I thought it would lead to things being predictable, but it’s actually become my favourite part of the ship’s organisation. Having smaller groups prevents the chaos that can happen with bigger plots; it means that when someone throws in an extra element, everyone has a fair chance to react to it. It’s a great ship, and I think we’ve really got “How To Run A Fun Mission” down to an exact science.

Lieutenant Corliss Fortune, you have served as a ship’s counselor since you were posted there a little over two years ago. What sort of challenges have you had to face in serving your officers on the Gorkon?

Fortune: I’d have to say it’s learning to juggle the three main balls: what’s realistic, what’s appropriate for Star Trek, and what the player wants.

For example, if one player has gleefully broken their character’s heart, they may have an inclination on how they want it played out. They want the character to heal, maybe have a comeback saga where they come to a revelation of some sort, and then it’s, you know, how do we build on that? How do we intertwine that heartbreak into the day to day life and the mission? Because, obviously, you can’t have someone constantly bemoaning their state of sudden singleness, but at the same time, it’s very realistic for two coworkers who once dated, and now are not, to have…some uneasiness and maybe some hesitance or even some negative feelings to one another.

On the other hand, sometimes it’s ‘hey so now I’ve given my character this phobia, please help’. I really enjoy researching and gathering up specific resources for individual characters (Cory’s demotion and subsequent feelings, Ayiana’s anger management, Jo and Erin’s relationship), and while it’s hard to search specific things concerning Star Trek (‘effects of reading one’s mind while in coma-like state’ Google has questions and the FBI is very curious I’m sure), it’s easy to connect them to reality (demotion in the army or career, real life anger management, generic relationship counseling) once I’m able to figure out the associations.

The second biggest challenge has to be the character development that proceeds afterward. I don’t care for the ‘you went to therapy once and you are cured, have a great day!’ type of trope. Rather, I like to give suggestions to both the player and the character. If Ensign Leo and Ensign Kara are having troubles, for example, then Corliss would suggest they spend time together and find something that bonds them as friends, which would then also lead to the players behind them to connect and get involved in more scenes together.

Are they really challenges if I have so much fun doing it though…? Heh, all the same, I truly have great fun with everything, and since Skarbek has been a glorious kick-start to a few twists and turns, I’m so keen to see what happens.

Lieutenant Piravao sh’Qynallahr, security officers play an important role in the life of a Starship, tasked with the safety of all on board, overseeing the care and handling of prisoners, and tasked with taking point on away missions to protect those on the team. What sort of opportunities have you had to sim these types of duties on the USS Gorkon?

sh’Qynallahr: I have been simming Piravao for almost a year. Quite early in my time writing her, I realized that she has a protective streak a mile long. During the mission Operation Q-Ball, as part of her cover, Piravao played the part of a happy-go-lucky hotshot racer, while some of her colleagues played the roles of bodyguards and engineers. While she enjoyed playing the reckless racer, it felt wrong to her to have others protecting her. More recently in the Skarbek-verse Piravao, or Blades as she is known there, has been staying closer to her role as a protector. Threatening a Gorn into backing down, counter-ambushing a Ferengi ambush, and skewering a Cardassian zombie to name but a few instances.

As a security officer Piravao’s first priority is to make sure everyone comes back from a mission unharmed. She sees it as her duty to be the first one entering a dangerous situation, so that others don’t have to.

Thank you so much for your insights on the USS Gorkon, everyone!

You can read more about the USS Gorkon on the wiki.

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