Lieutenant Commander Karana Valance
Once a promising young officer expected to swiftly earn her own command, Commander Valance's early career suffered several setbacks undermining this prospect. Building a reputation since as a steady and reliable officer somewhat lacking in initiative, only once executive officer and protégé to Captain MacCallister of the USS Endeavour did Command again start to consider her for her own ship. For now she remains XO of the Endeavour under Commander Matt Rourke, a determined adherent of Starfleet's diplomatic principles.
Karana’s parents were Angela Valance of the Federation and Jodmang, son of A’trok, of the Klingon Empire. Angela was a sculptor who specialised in metalwork, and visited the Empire to work alongside Klingon artists. She and Jodmang engaged in a brief relationship, but neither were prepared to leave their homes for the other, and a pregnant Angela returned to her home on Cantelle Colony. With the colony’s proximity to the Klingon border, the two remained on cordial terms, and the child was named after Jodmang’s grandmother.
Cantelle Colony was a rough-and-ready frontier with a strong sense of community. While this contributed to young Karana’s sense of self-sufficiency and pragmatism, as a half-Klingon she struggled to fit in. Her mother exposed her to art and culture, hoping it might help her find herself and her place. But she was still impulsive and passionate, more forthright than her peers, and physically-minded enough to sometimes intimidate them, and she struggled to make close friends. Once a teenager, Karana chose to leave and live with her father for a time.
Jodmang had taken a post on Qo’noS at this point, and the capital’s more cosmopolitan nature meant a half-Klingon was less an oddity than on a quiet border. She learnt more of her father’s culture, received a warrior’s training, and at sixteen was formally inducted into the House of A’trok. But she was still an outsider, finding herself for once the more thoughtful of her fellows, and while she could keep up with other young warriors in training it took more perseverance, and her formative years in a different culture could not be denied. Her induction brought her into proximity of her family’s affairs, which was how she met Commander Leonidas MacCallister, a Starfleet officer with the Federation embassy. Even then MacCallister served as a mentor to her, seeing a young woman in need of guidance and her own place in the galaxy. When she expressed her struggle – ultimately, Qo’noS could not be her home any more than Cantelle – he suggested Starfleet.
The Academy proved the first place Karana had ever felt she belonged. In a multicultural environment where she was expected to work hard, she excelled. It was here she met Cassia Aquila, a woman from Magna Roma who was different to Karana in many ways: close to her family and community, with a heritage of service. But they were both brilliant, charismatic, and driven, and as a pair they dominated the achievements of their Academy class. Confident at last in these surroundings, Karana proved a passionate and spirited cadet, set on the command fast-track and graduating second in her class, after Aquila.
Ensign Valance was posted as a helm officer to the Antares, a posting intended to provide her with bridge experience. Early on she proved herself, piloting a shuttle through an ion storm to rescue the crew of a damaged civilian ship. While she succeeded, she disregarded guidelines and even disabled the shuttle’s safety protocols to conduct the necessary flying. Superiors gave her warnings against this behaviour, but her success spoke for itself, and the confident young officer did not listen as much as she might.
When she made Lieutenant Junior Grade not long after, she moved on to the USS Potemkin as Chief Bridge Watch Officer. The Century-class conducted exploratory missions where she had multiple opportunities to prove her talent on the bridge, but she shone at the Potemkin’s mission to Garavos II. A territorial local power attacked the Potemkin unprovoked while Valance led the Gamma Watch, and damage to the ship delayed the arrival of the captain. Valance commanded the vessel for fifteen minutes of combat before the CO arrived and ordered the withdrawal. She was commended for her exceptional decision-making and competence, though the captain noted she had protested the retreat – she believed they could win the fight, while his concern was that Starfleet would not trespass even when attacked without warning.
These high achievements earned her a promotion and finally her own senior staff position, as Chief Helm Officer of the USS Derby. While Valance was a competent pilot, her service at the helm was transparently the path of an officer destined for command, and Valance made this ambition and expectation quite clear. The Derby was simply another means to an end. But two years later, this ascent would come to a rapid halt.
Valance had learnt to trust her instincts in making snap judgements, which worked until it didn’t. Plutark III sought to enter a trade agreement with the Federation, and the Derby was set to visit ahead of the arrival of negotiators. This security check proved necessary when a scuffle with an anti-government faction landed the captain in sickbay and led to the abduction of the XO and Second Officer, leaving 27 year-old Lieutenant Valance in command. While the seasoned ship’s doctor encouraged restraint, she entered into negotiations with the kidnappers as a ruse, attempting to draw them out so a rescue mission could be launched.
The rescue mission was successful, but triggered a firefight in the lower atmosphere of Plutark between the Derby and the kidnappers’ ship, which was so heavily damaged it lost power and began to crash. The Derby’s attempt to use the tractor beam only deflected its path to outside a major settlement, but three civilians were still killed in the impact, as well as the vessel’s crew.
The inquiry was not as damning as it might have been. Valance’s youth and inexperience were considered, as was the technical success of her mission. But while she was cleared of formal wrongdoing, Starfleet obviously decided that at best, she had been advanced far too quickly. At worst, her tendency towards impulsiveness and snap decisions was a flaw that ought to keep her far away from a command chair.
After a string of high-profile assignments, the Paris was another sign of her disgrace. On this last-generation vessel conducting routine and inauspicious patrol duties, Valance remained low in the chain of command. She accepted responsibility for the deaths she had caused, knowing her tendency towards taking risks and living by instinct had taken an unnecessary toll. But she also began to suspect that either her Klingon heritage was the cause, or Starfleet perceived it to be the cause.
Her entire conduct changed over the five years on the Paris. Once vivacious and passionate, Valance became cold and disciplined, described even as ‘uptight’ by colleagues. Where there had once been an officer prepared to gamble and live off her instincts, in its place became icy, iron control and conduct. But despite a spotless record marked with several major achievements over five years, Starfleet failed to show her recognition, or give any indication they would offer her another chance.
As such, she used her connections of her father and volunteered for the exchange programme with the KDF, if only to gain new experiences, having learnt all she thought she could on the Paris. For two years she served on the IKS qa’chaQ as first officer, immersed for the first time in almost twenty years in her father’s culture, on an assignment spending a considerable amount of time in the territory of the House of A’trok. This experience left her only more wary of her Klingon culture; it was always easy to defer to that side of her, resolve problems with quick thinking and blunt action, and yet she felt that was responsible for the biggest mistake of her life.
After two years she was keen to leave Klingon space, but Starfleet had nothing for her. She considered tendering her resignation, but was unsure where else she could go. Valance was surprised and relieved to then hear from her old mentor, now-Captain Leonidas MacCallister. He had a new command, the USS Endeavour, and with her experience as first officer – even on a Klingon ship – she was a qualified candidate to be his XO, one he would vouch for.
Valance leapt at the opportunity. MacCallister was a patient commander, a consummate diplomat, and a keen-eyed officer willing and able to mentor her. He knew of her ambitions and recognised her talent, and made it clear he intended to help her get a ship of her own. For three years she conducted more spotless service on Endeavour, now a more seasoned, serious, and measured officer – though MacCallister tried, in vain, to get her to relax more often.
At last, her name began to be shortlisted for consideration for future commands by Starfleet. For a time, it seemed MacCallister was holding her back – in truth, he hoped for her to earn Starfleet’s trust enough to succeed him on Endeavour – but circumstances changed before the question of her advancement could be resolved. Endeavour was brutally attacked by ships of the Wild Hunt pirates; members of the senior staff were killed, MacCallister so injured he needed replacing.
Valance had hoped for command, but Endeavour was instead given to former Academy instructor and criminal investigator Matthew Rourke, with one specific assignment: find the Wild Hunt. Bristling at being overlooked, and confronted with a commanding officer she believed to be anathema to the Starfleet methods of science and diplomacy that she had whole-heartedly embraced since the Derby, Valance had little stomach for any of the mission.
But, for now, her professionalism has kept her as XO of Endeavour.