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In the fictional Star Trek universe, the Jem'Hadar are the shock troops of the powerful Dominion of the Gamma Quadrant. Genetically engineered for strength and courage, they are also very short-lived and believe that 'Victory is life'. They treat the Founders of the Dominion, enigmatic shape-shifters who rule the massive Dominion, as gods. The Jem'Hadar's numbers are unknown, but they may number in the billions.
Jem'Hadar are genetically engineered and are born in "birthing pods" so there is no need for female Jem'Hadar: none exist. After emerging from the birthing-pod, the Jem'Hadar grows rapidly and is a battle-ready young adult in 3 days (albeit an inexperienced youth). To avoid weakness, they have been bred without need to eat, sleep or engage in rest, relaxation or recreation of any form. Jem'Hadar have a high-attrition rate; Few live to be 15 and none have lived to be 30. A Jem'Hadar that reaches 20 years of age gains the title of "Honored Elder".
Controlled by the Dominion
A key aspect, if not the defining aspect, of the Jem'Hadar is that the Founders believed that these soldiers to be so ruthless that they needed a special "edge" to prevent them rebelling against the Dominion. For that reason, all Jem'Hadar are bred to be addicted to a liquid drug, Ketracel white, often called 'white' for short, which also serves as their sole nutrition.
The Founders use the Vorta, a race of middlemen, to supply the Jem'Hadar with Ketracel white. It is administered through 10-15 cm cylinders that fit near a Jem'Hadar's collar, a tube running into the jugular to provide a constant feed. If the supply of the drug runs out, a Jem'Hadar will suffer painful withdrawal symptoms, physical weakness, and eventual death.
Only one case of a non-addicted Jem'Hadar soldier is known: an anomaly which was the result of a random genetic mutation. Some sources have also indicated that the drug can be used as a narcotic by other species.
Many, such as the Klingons, believe the Jem'Hadar are no more than honorless machines. In fact the Jem'Hadar are a species of varied characters, although those variations are across a narrower spectrum than is usual. Many Jem'hadar have displayed a profound loyalty and devotion within their own ranks and to the Founders. Common incantations that; "Obedience brings Victory!" and "Victory is Life!"—literally true; through victory, they get more Ketracel white.
In one case a group of Starfleet officers led by Captain Sisko were stranded on an uninhabited planet along with a group of Jem'Hadar and their Vorta, Keevan. Keevan was injured and needed medical attention to survive, so decided to surrender himself. He informed Sisko that he was going to order his troops to attack so that Sisko could ambush and kill them all. Even though the Jem'Hadar knew full well what Keevan was planning, so strong was their loyalty that they willingly walked into the trap as ordered. On another occasion a group of Jem'Hadar committed suicide because they failed to save the life of one of the Founders.
However, other Jem'Hadar have been less devoted - for instance, a group which gained control of an Iconian gateway planned to use it to rebel against the Founders. The Vorta expected this group to pick up considerable support, to the point where the Jem'Hadar as a whole would be able to seize control of the Dominion and liberate themselves from the Founders.
The Jem'Hadar command structure is fairly straightforward. Their equivalent to a captain is called a "First". Their equivalent to commander is "Second". The ranks goes down through "Third", "Fourth", "Fifth", and so on. Before a major battle, the ranking Jem'Hadar will traditionally give the Jem'Hadar Battle Dirge to his assembled troops:
- Ranking Jem'Hadar: "My name is [Ranking Jem'Hadar's name] and I am dead. As of this moment, we are all dead. In battle for the Founders we attain life. We do this gladly, for we are Jem'Hadar. Remember: Victory is Life!"
- Assembled Jem'Hadar: [chanting shout] "Victory is Life! Victory is Life! Victory is Life!..."
Jem'Hadar war capabilities
Jem'Hadar use polaron weapons. These are similar to the three-sided bayonets now banned by international law; apart from their traditional destructive force, a Jem'Hadar weapon-beam emits a pulse that prevents blood clotting in damaged tissue. Even a glancing wound will cause unstoppable bleeding and death. The Jem'Hadar are also proficient in hand to hand combat, having an extremely tough and strong physique.
Their ships' bridges contain no central viewer, essentially like blinders on a horse. Only the Jem'Hadar First and a Vorta agent are permitted a head-up display visor of the surrounding battle.
Known Jem'Hadar history
It is unknown if the homeworld of the original beings who were engineered into Jem'Hadar still exists. First contact between the Jem'Hadar and the Federation was violent. Shortly after first contact with them, a Jem'Hadar kamikaze attack destroyed the Galaxy-class USS Odyssey. The Jem'Hadar also destroyed numerous other ships in the Gamma Quadrant at the time, and massacred the New Bajor colony there.
During the Dominion War, the Jem'Hadar were the frontline soldiers of the Dominion, with Cardassians used as cannon-fodder and later the Breen as allies. They captured Betazed, and wrought very high-attrition rates. During the war, the Dominion began developing a new breed of Jem'Hadar specifically adapted to use in the Alpha quadrant. These soldiers are often called Alphas.
After heavy losses, The Dominion War ended in 2375 and the Jem'Hadar withdrew to the Gamma Quadrant. It is unknown if the Jem'Hadar ever became free of the Dominion and the Founders.
Dominion war events involving Jem'Hadar
The Chin'Toka system was taken from the Jem'Hadar in a devastating defeat. Heavy fighting with the Jem'Hadar also occurred on the moon designated AR-558 in the Chin'toka system.
The Jem'Hadar considered attacking Earth, but did not. The key to the Alpha Quadrant was repeatedly stated as being the Bajoran wormhole, not Earth. Attacking Earth was seen as an expensive, grandiose gesture with little profit or critical acclaim. Nonetheless, a Breen fleet did attack Earth: but it was a suicidal gesture, as few of the attacking ships survived to escape.
When Cardassia Prime rebelled against Dominion rule, the Jem'Hadar destroyed Lycarian city of over 2 million inhabitants, in a gesture that was supposed to beat the Cardassians into submission. However, the Jem'Hadar and the Dominion didn't really understand the beings of the Alpha Quadrant, who unlike the Gamma Quadrant, had not been pacified by centuries of Dominion rule: The Cardassians had been ruthless conquerors themselves for generations, and were not about to give up even at such a high price. A bloody insurrection started, and eventually in frustration the order was given to "Kill the Cardassians... all of them, the entire population". The Dominion sent tens of millions of Jem'Hadar troops to crush the revolt and destroy the Cardassian population in a genocidal massacre. The death toll was placed at over 800 million Cardassians dead by the time it was liberated (astonishing, given that William Riker stated World War III killed 600 million people on Earth).
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