Stardate 75645.1; August 24, 2398
Edited by Peter Bossley
Written by Chris Adamek
Admiral William Grayson
The Tholians were coming…
That was the lone thought lingering in Neelar Drayge’s mind as he frantically piloted the USS Aztec through the depths of a dense and seemingly endless asteroid belt. Drayge knew that his concentration should have been focused entirely upon keeping the tiny craft in one piece, but the constant threat looming in the distance was a force his mind could not deny.
Six or seven ragged blue phaser blasts had already clipped the Aztec; countless others careened into the distance, pulverizing entire asteroids in a single shot. Despite his allegedly incredible piloting skills, Drayge knew that it was only a matter of time before the Tholians got lucky—and when that happened… He shuddered at the thought…
Erin Keller suddenly tugged at the Bolian’s sleeve. “Neelar,” she called over the hiss of a ruptured EPS conduit, “one of the cruisers is coming about!”
He glanced down at sensors, and sure enough, the lead ship had ended its vigilant watch at the edge of the asteroid belt. “They’ve set a direct intercept course,” said Drayge, trying valiantly to sound half as calm as Commander Keller. His attempt was a miserable failure, but Keller and the others were too busy to actually notice.
“There’s no way in hell we can outrun the bastards!” Lucas Tompkins quickly seated himself at the engineering station along the starboard wall. “Even with the transwarp network in shambles, their engines are still far superior to our own…”
“And that last phaser blast didn’t help,” added a frazzled Kendall Johnson. He was at the freestanding station behind Drayge, anxiously pouring over the sensors in search of some sort of advantage. “One of the plasma coils in the port nacelle ruptured…”
Tompkins immediately confirmed the data on his own console. “Damn!” His deft fingers flew over the console. “If we don’t get that fixed soon, we’ll start venting drive plasma…”
Keller shot Tompkins a curious glance. “What about the secondary coil?” she asked.
“It’s online,” said the engineer, “but it’s having trouble keeping up with the plasma flow. There might be something wrong with it!”
“Cut power to the port nacelle then,” said Keller. “If we can’t run from the Tholians, there’s no use—”
A flash of azure light suddenly burst through the asteroid field, blowing through the side of a large asteroid before skirting the Aztec’s shield grid. Drayge desperately tried to minimize the impact, but a second shot very quickly fouled up his efforts—and struck the Aztec head-on.
The tiny craft jolted wildly, violently throwing Drayge back in his chair; sparks and cinders rolled across the flickering helm and the EPS rupture overhead began to spray white clouds into the already murky air.
Keller turned to Johnson. “Do we have any weapons?”
“Phasers and torpedoes,” he said. “But, I… I don’t know how much good they’ll do!”
“Well we can’t just sit here and let them obliterate us!” Keller turned back to her console. “Target their weapons and propulsion systems—and fire at will!”
The Aztec lingered in the shadow of a large, craggy asteroid for only a moment before darting into the open battlefield in a blaze of phaser blasts and quantum torpedoes. The manic Tholian vessel weaved around the oncoming torpedoes, but several of the phaser bursts smashed into its shield grid; blue flares shimmered across the Tholians’ hull, but they emerged from the assault unscathed.
Within seconds, the angular craft charged the Aztec amidst a continuous barrage of phaser fire. The first dozen shots only skirted the fighter’s shields, and by the time the next barrage was unleashed, the Aztec was back on the offensive, casting its remaining quantum torpedoes into the fray. The Tholian barrage intercepted three of the torpedoes—prompting their immediate detonation—but the remainder of the group plowed into, and ultimately through the Tholians’ shield grid, calling forth a massive green explosion that swept across its angular hull…
* * *
“They’ve got multiple hull breaches in the aft sections of their ship,” called Johnson from his workstation. “Their engines are gone, but… looks like they still have weapons.”
Keller sighed as the magnitude of the situation began to sink in. “They can’t run… we can’t run…”
“Things are gonna get ugly,” surmised Tompkins.
“They already have.” Drayge sat in contemplation of the information flitting across is side of the main console. Though he wasn’t exactly certain what the strange energy readings were, he had a very, very bad suspicion.
Much to the Bolian’s chagrin, it was a suspicion that Kendall Johnson was very quick to confirm. “The two cruisers still outside the asteroid belt have begun weaving some sort of energy field around us…”
And suddenly, things went from very bad to very worse—the morbid look upon Keller’s formerly placid face was a dead giveaway. Slowly, the Commander took in a deep lungful of the acrid air and said, “It looks like we just got ourselves caught in a Tholian web…”