STO Series 4: The 2800; Episode 3: Operation Gamma

The crew sets out to find a friend in the Gamma Quadrant who can lead them to the Dominion.

Commander Mesi Achebe has a plan. If Loriss and Kar’ukan are unable to contact the Dominion, then perhaps we can, and hopefully convince them to make Loriss believe that the Dominion War has been over for thirty years and release Deep Space Nine. She assigns Commander Samuel Winters to the operation, under Arwellyn’s command.

However, Kar’ukan has his fleet guarding the Bajoran wormhole. The Alpha Quadrant allied forces will send ships nearby to create a distraction while Arwellyn pilots a shuttle close enough to DS9 to disable its scanner systems, then enter the wormhole into the Gamma Quadrant.

Each of DS9’s lower pylons has a scanner cluster, and they must be disabled in order. But every time one is disabled a worker bee drone launches to repair it, accompanied by a few Jem’Hadar fighters. If a worker bee manages to repair a scanner cluster, we’re back to square one starting all over again, so it is imperative to focus on those drones first then focus on the fighters.

Once DS9’s scanners are offline, one of the smaller Jem’Hadar ships breaks off from the battle with the alliance fleet to investigate and engages our shuttle. It packs more firepower than the fighters but is less maneuverable so our shuttle’s phaser beam hits more often too. Once that last ship is destroyed, the path to the wormhole is clear. To the Gamma Quadrant!

Inside the wormhole, Commander Winters tells us our contact is a Ferengi trader, Farek. She has dealings with the Dominion and could point us in the right direction to contact them and plead our case, but being a Ferengi, the price of that information won’t come cheap.

The shuttle exits the wormhole in the Idran system. Farek’s ship is not at the specified location but sensors detect a nearby nav beacon. Nearing the beacon, Winters detects a ship on long-range scans that match the description of Farek’s ship but indicates it has been heavily damaged. Arwellyn has him set a course to investigate. The ship is located inside one of the large asteroids and protected by a shield. Science Officer Azlen notes that the asteroid cluster is teeming with cozmozoan life forms who, while hostile, are not actively hunting at the moment. She postulates they are the reason Farek is hiding inside the asteroid. But we need information and we need it fast, so Arwellyn orders the shield generator targeted and destroyed then sets carefully pilots the shuttle into the asteroid to park near Farek’s ship, the Krannek.

While her crew goes about repairing the Krannek, Farek lays out her terms: she desires some highly valuable – and profitable – materials contained within this asteroid cluster. If Arwellyn is willing to gather them, she will tell us where her Dominion contact can be located. As a Science captain, Arwellyn is able to extract rare particles from traces within each of the large asteroids.

However, upon transporting the particles to the Krannek, Farek attempts a double-cross and orders her crew to escape! Her warp drive has not been repaired yet, so as the Krannek exits the asteroid Farek initiates a resonance pulse which sends the nearby cozmozoan swarmers into an angry frenzy! Groups of swarmers… uh, swarm… Arwellyn’s shuttle.

Barely escaping with the shuttle, and their lives, intact, the crew goes about locating the Krannek again. Commander Winters finds the ship’s signature with long-range scans. It’s been damaged again, all systems offline except minimum life support. Dominion ships are parked nearby. Arwellyn is contacted by the Vorta, Eraun, who is aware of DS9’s occupation. As a test of Arwellyn’s mettle to cooperate, he asks that she destroy the Krannek. Arwellyn declines, giving Farek a chance to escape. Eraun is angered but there is something more important that he desires: Starfleet has been holding a Founder captive for thirty years since the end of the Dominion War. In exchange for her return, he will gladly cooperate and ensure Kar’ukan’s forces no longer threaten Deep Space Nine.

To be continued…

Summary

“Operation Gamma” is a fairly short-ish mission overall, though is lengthened somewhat by the cut scenes. Like in “The Vault” this episode relies on some suspension of disbelief – namely that sensors don’t notice small craft like shuttles or fighters – to succeed at the greater goal of telling its story. Star Trek Online is a Trek game not a Trek sim, so there are some things we just have to mentally gloss over.

I did find the combat more difficult than in “The Vault” namely because we’re almost always fighting groups of very fast-moving, hard-hitting ships (or cozmozoan life forms). Actually the combat below DS9 wasn’t as bad though there were some close calls. But those swarmers destroyed the shuttle quickly a time or two before I was able to finish them off. So, a part of your strategy ahead of time is planning which small craft to take on this mission. With Arwellyn, I chose the Captain’s Yacht because I’d never had a reason to fly it before. However, it only has a single universal bridge officer slot which I assigned to an ensign tactical officer who had the Tactical Team I power. It’s shield regeneration ability was great while it lasted, but waiting for the cooldown cost me. When I played the mission on my tactical captain, I used a Runabout which has two bridge officer slots and I was better able to handle the swarmers.

Voice acting was decent this time. On the forums there are already requests for Farek as a bridge officer or duty officer complete with voice overs. Myself, I wasn’t fond of Farek but that’s because I’ve found nearly the personality and voice of nearly every Ferengi on Star Trek television to be highly annoying so I was already biased against Farek before she even opened her mouth.

The profession-dependent material gathering minigame was a nice addition. It’s similar to the Starfleet Academy event where you run around scanning particle traces. Once you’ve identified which type of particle you’ve found, you’re presented with two choices of how to attempt to extract the particles. For this mission, there are three types of objects to interact with, and three choices for each interaction which must be accomplished before the scan completes. Luckily, the designers left a tab to bring up your science officer’s analyses which provides the correct order for each interaction. Still, bringing up that tab, reading the order, then accomplishing them within the time limit cuts it close enough to provide some sense of tension.

“Operation Gamma” is a nice continuation of the story, and it’s great to see more content utilizing the small craft!


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