Loosely based on the Iraqi Civil War, the mission picks up the previously discarded Cardassian civil war plotline from the "Cardassian Struggle" episode and posits that rather than dissolving after the capture of Gul Madred in "The Long Night" and the damage done by the Federation captain, the True Way instead grew stronger. Under new leadership it mounts a major offensive while the Federation is distracted by events in the Delta Quadrant, driving back the Cardassian Defense Force and declaring a Third Cardassian Empire. Among their victims is a long-persecuted religious minority called the Oralian Way.
In response, Starfleet deploys the player character to deliver relief supplies to an Oralian colony, with the ulterior motive of hopefully checking the True Way's advance by letting them know Starfleet is watching.
Tropes in "The Hydra's Head":
- Buffy Speak/Expospeak Gag:
- The series borrows a lot of Cardassian worldbuilding from the Terok Nor novel series, set during the Bajoran Occupation.
- The Chatak Nor map has two to the diplomacy mission "Standoff" There's a throwaway mention that Gul Antos, now a jagul (rear admiral equivalent), was fighting in a recent battle. Meanwhile some off-duty Cardassians drink a toast to Gul Surjan.
- Conflicting Loyalty: Minor character Glinn Halor Ossol is a loyal Cardassian Defense Force soldier, but he says he has a brother fighting for the other side and lost his best friend in a recent battle. You end up killing his brother Gul Ossol in the first battle of the mission.
- Downer Ending: The True Way forces the PC and Bak'rikan Group to retreat from Selmak with only a few tens of thousands of the hundreds of thousands of Oralian settlers and refugees, and exterminate those who couldn't be evacuated with Orbital Bombardment.
- FaceHeel Turn: A news story states that as the True Way made their advance their ranks were bolstered by mass defections from the Cardassian First Order.
- Fantastic Racism: A news story says that hardliners on the Klingon High Council made trouble for General Brokosh (one of the protagonists of Red Fire, Red Planet) for being a Lethean.
- Fantasy Conflict Counterpart: StarSword has been pretty open about the inspiration for the setting and events being the conflict with ISIS that began in 2014.
- The True Way plays ISIS, a terrorist group turned self-declared nation-state after outside peacekeepers left without properly finishing the job.
- The Cardassian Defense Force plays the Iraqi Army, the military of the legitimate regional state being driven back in disarray by a fanatical opponent.
- The Oralian Way stand in for the Yazidis, a religious minority long persecuted by the majority and now under direct threat of extermination by the advancement of the self-declared state.
- Filling out the cast is the Bak'rikan Group for the Peshmerga and the various anti-ISIS Iraqi militias, a privately raised, well-organized militia now battling the self-declared state in parallel to the legit military.
- Hilarity Sues: A news story states that Starfleet is getting sued by a group of Hathon citizens for warrantless arrest and confinement and failure to provide legal representation during interrogation (a reference to fan reaction to the mission "Undine Infiltration").
- Hold Your Hippogriffs: Given the Cardassians' quasi-reptilian physiology, "cloaca" is used as a G-rated stand-in for "ass" several times.
- Humans Are White: Averted, as in the author's other works. Of a grand total of four humans shown, the mission-giving admiral is an Arab, while the sensor officer on your ship is a black South African with a Zulu name. There's also a Turkish and a Slavic newscaster.
- Hypocrite: Glinn Halor Ossol, a CDF officer you talk to briefly (he's a quest-related NPC on the first map) calls the True Way this. He says that "they say they hate the Federation, but whoever's leading the other side has killed more Cardassians in the last year than the Federation did in twenty."
- In-Game Novel: The Chatak Nor map has a computer terminal containing news stories from several Alpha and Beta Quadrant nations and the Delta Quadrant, as well as some encyclopedia entries.
- Meaningful Name: "Bak'rikan" is Hebitiannote for "no surrender". (It was the name of a ship in the Star Trek novel The Mirror-Scaled Serpent.)
- Mirror Universe: Inverted. Fans of StarSword's STO fanfic work will recognize the name Kerim Morag from The Wrong Reflection. In the mirror universe he's a decent enough Reasonable Authority Figure. In the prime universe he's the new leader of the True Way and a mass murderer.
- Nice Job Breaking It, Hero!: Taking out Gul Madred had to happen, but it opened the way for his less restrained second-in-command to take over.
- Off-the-Shelf FX:
- The Chatak Nor map is a redress of the map for Deep Space 9. Justified as being another Cardassian space station built to the same specifications.
- The Bak'rikan uniform combines bits of the Jem'Hadar outfit with a brown longcoat from the winter event. Costumes worn by civilians include kitbashes of the Kobali uniform and Deanna Troi's low-cut top, among other things. An Oralian taking part in a religious ceremony wears an Undine helmet as a substitute for a recitation mask.
- Scandalgate: A news story mentions that the Romulan Republic Senate launched an investigation into the Iconian gateway incident in "Sphere of Influence", which acquired the nickname "Gatewaygate".
"Lose it. It means go crazy, nuts, insane, bonzo, no longer in possession of one's faculties, three transistors short of a circuit-board. WACKO!"
- Grell calls himself a sales rep for Universal Exports, a front company used by James Bond.
- Your science officer says they're going to "lose it" if they get woken up for a battle drill again. If you ask them what they mean, Science responds: