Star Trek Online: Pathfinder - Dark Horizons by RogueJawa

Responding to a distress signal from the IKS T'Acog, the crew of the USS Pathfinder find the Vor'cha-class battle cruiser adrift in Federation space. With war already erupting between the Federation and Klingon Empire what the crew finds unfolds into a plot far more insidious than they could ever imagine.

Categories: Expanded Universes Characters: None
Genre: Action/Adventure
Warnings: Adult Language, Adult Situations, Character Death, Violence
Challenges: None
Series: Star Trek Online: Pathfinder
Chapters: 5 Completed: No Word count: 11559 Read: 8716 Published: 07 Apr 2014 Updated: 23 Aug 2015
Story Notes:
This is the first novella in a planned series that I began for Camp NaNoWriMo April 2014. This story is set in the year 2409, during the Federation-Klingon war, and in the Star Trek Online expanded universe. Star Trek is copyright CBS Studios/Paramount, and no copyright infringement is intended. Many thanks to Mick who graciously serves as beta reader for this project, and thanks to everyone who encouraged me along the way.
Prologue by RogueJawa


Shouts turned the morning to chaos as two warriors slammed a lieutenant down on the examination table. The convulsing Klingon was the first of five on board the IKS T'Acog to be brought into the infirmary and the other four were not that far behind, with Lieutenant Logruk, the T'Acog's chief medical officer, on their heels. The two immediately stepped back but as Logruk came up behind them he shoved them forward with his shoulder, forcing his way around them to get to his equipment.

"Hold him, you worthless sacks of targ dung!" he shouted at them, voice gruff with annoyance. "How else do you expect me to get him restrained?"

Both warriors gave him begrudging looks but clamped their hands down on the officer's shoulders and arms in an attempt to steady him on the examination table. As large as they were it took all of their strength to keep him in place. The burly, thick necked Klingon thrashed violently against the table; the metal heel of his boots left dents in the surface and the scrape of metal upon metal echoed into the corridor. Logruk shoved between the two warriors and slammed his hand down on the table's controls to active the restraints. He ran a medical tricorder across the lieutenant's cranial ridges then looked up at the display on the wall.

Logruk cursed the outdated equipment in frustration and slammed the tricorder down on the table. The display was a mess, synapses firing without any order, it was like his mind was being erased. It did not look natural and he did not know why. Infirmaries, even on a Vor'cha-class battle cruiser, were geared for patching warriors up and putting them back into the fight as quickly as possible, not for research. For a warrior like Logruk, who believed fighting diseases was just as important as strangling the life out of an enemy, it was infuriating.

"Hold them, all of you!" he growled, tired of seeing everyone standing around while the other four patients thrashed on their tables. Each subsequent scan revealed the same result. All of their synapses were on fire, but he did not understand why. As he reached to take a blood sample there was a roar across the room. Both warriors holding the first patient had let go and backed away, their lips curled in an enraged snarl. Logruk shoved around the group and pushed between them.

"What's the matter with you cowards?" he growled.

Logruk was stopped in his tracks when he looked at the lieutenant resting on his exam table. The seizure activity had ceased and another activity had taken it's place. Before disbelieving eyes his patient's features were starting to transform. His cranial ridges grew more pronounced, his face morphing into something grotesque and formally known only to Klingons in their nightmares. In mere moments the well known visage of their tactical officer had been transformed into something that resembled Fek'Ihr; the very demon from Klingon myth that guarded the gates of Gre'thor. Logruk had heard rumors that the Fek'Ihri from the time of Kahless had returned, but he had dismissed them as superstition.

Perhaps there was truth to the myth after all. Similar shouts of surprise followed and without even needing to turn around he knew what was happening. Logruk took the samples and hurried to his lab, leaving his staff and security staring in disbelief. The sudden lull was short lived, he had very little time to put the samples in the scanner before chaos once again swallowed the infirmary and intensified. Upon hearing the renewed sounds of battle Logruk stepped out of the lab to find his former patients wrestling with the warriors and medical staff left to guard them, and one by one they all began to fall with convulsions.

One of the fallen, his senior nurse, had barely hit the deck plating before his attacker spotted Logruk and charged. Determination set in, he would die on his feet like a Klingon should instead of fall prey to an honorless, infected fate. He turned to run back into the lab and missed being knocked to the floor by the Fek'Ihri by mere centimeters. As the creature recovered he searched the room for anything he could use as a weapon. At first he spotted only loose medical equipment, none of it heavy enough to function as a proper weapon, but then his searching gaze fell upon a panel covering an EPS conduit. He could hear the Fek'Ihri charging behind him as he grasped at the panel to pry it free. A flicker of shadow triggered his warrior instinct and he dropped to the floor, allowing the myth made flesh to slam into the wall. He was doing his best to keep the Klingon turned Fek'Ihri at a distance.

Logruk rose into a crouch and bared his teeth in a feral snarl, the rapid beating of his heart pounded in his ears like a drum; its tune was that of bloodlust. When the Fek'Ihri rose and charged him again Logruk grabbed a tricorder from the table. With it clutched tightly in his hand he stepped to the side and thrust his right arm out, slamming the device into the devil's face. The casing shattered and the beast roared in rage. Logruk dove behind it and a vicious grin spread upon his face. When the Fek'Ihri hit the wall it dented the panel, perhaps just enough for Logruk to get his rough fingers behind. Behind him the demon was rising to his feet and Logruk grasped at the panel to try to pull it free.

Bellowing with an enraged roar Logruk finally ripped the panel from the wall and swung it at his foe as the beast approached from behind. The sheer exhilaration of fighting for his life had left the physician's eyes glazed with anticipation of the kill. A snarl curled his upper lip and he charged his foe with the panel, driving him into the wall and shoving hard enough to drive the dull edge deep enough into what was once one of his friends to severe his spine. He left him there, at least half of him, impaled into the bulkhead and hurried from the infirmary into the dimly lit corridor. The physician did not know what madness was gripping his fellow crewmen but it only took a little observation to see it was spreading with close physical contact. In the corridor warriors rushed past him and into the infirmary in an attempt to gain control of the situation. The reality was that it would only worsen it.

"Back you petaQs!" he growled at the warriors rushing toward the fray, which soon spilled into the corridor itself. "You are only going to spread the disease!" he shouted.

"Quiet you coward!" shouted Betor, son of Ral, the T'Acog's first officer when Logruk emerged from the crowd in front of him. He backhanded the stocky physician into the bulkhead and spat on him. "We are aware that the Fek'Ihri have somehow managed to infiltrate this ship and you run? Get back in there and get our wounded back in the fight."

"Bah! You ignorant fool! You do not understand," Logruk argued, straightening up from the bulkhead. He did not get to finish his thought as one of the infected leapt over the throng of Klingons, and knocked the first officer down to his knees. Logruk wasted no time and continued down the corridor to an airlock.

Behind him the bitter sounds of battle grew closer. By the time he had reached the airlock and its storage lockers more warriors had met the demon Fek'Ihri in combat. As their bodies fell to the deck, and blocked the junction of the two corridors, more of his brethren took their places. He now considered all of them fools. As Logruk began climbing into the environmental suit a Fek'Ihri rose from the hoard and upon spotting him charged down the corridor. Logruk turned with the helmet in hand just in time to see the demon hurtling at him. He pulled the helmet down, locked it into place, and the suit immediately filled with a self-contained atmosphere. Strangely the Fek'Ihri who had been bearing down to him came to a halt and simply stared at the dark metal helmet and polarized face plate that had once been the head of a Klingon. The beast's crazed eyes became hollow and it seemed to look past him as though he weren't there, then it turned and began heading back the way it came. Logruk found this most curious indeed.

The might of the Klingon Empire on board the T'Acog was rendered impotent in less than two hours. Soon the only noise was the muted rattle of the environmental systems and his own breathing inside the environmental suit. Logruk had seated himself on the floor outside the airlock and watched with unadulterated hatred as one by one former Klingons arose as Fek'Ihri. He wondered if this was happening all over the Empire, if this was how the rumors had been started. Though he had bested his fellow combatant in the lab the ship had been lost. Defeat left a foul taste in his mouth, and he wondered if perhaps Betor had been right. Whether he died fighting them or died of boredom in the environmental suit he was a coward and a failure who would be damned to Gre'thor. The infirmary was too outdated to properly analyze what had taken over his comrades.

As self-hatred began to awaken the drumbeat of battle in his heart Logruk stood up, and decided to remove his helmet. "Today is a good day to die," he thought, even though it was suicide. He decided that he would die fighting the horde and perhaps by some miracle he would die with what little honor he had left. Logruk then touched the clamp releasing his helmet just as the deck shuddered beneath his feet. If he was not mistaken the engines had just come online. Curious, he turned to look at the Fek'Ihri horde behind him and noted that none of them were moving. Logruk was left to contemplate who had engaged the engines if these beasts still stood there like mindless automatons.

He narrowed his eyes behind the faceplate, resealed his helmet, and set off down the corridor. As he approached the horde they gave no indication that they knew he was there. As a test to their indifference, and out of necessity to pass, Logruk pushed into the horde and began making his way to the turbolift. To his surprise the Fek'Ihri still did not move and Logruk soon reached the lift without incident. When the turbolift arrived he stepped inside, turned to face the corridor, and activated it.

The lift jolted to a stop and the doors opened to reveal a deserted corridor. The crew had no doubt rushed to the upper levels to meet the threat. He considered them brave, but he also considered them foolish. In spite his own moment of suicidal ideation he thought there was little to be gained from simply throwing yourself at a foe until it relented. He grunted to himself, feeling justified in his thinking, and turned right to enter main engineering. Logruk approached the master display and began punching at the controls with imprecise motions due to the bulkiness of his gloves. More than once he growled in frustration, but he intensified his focus on the task at hand when the lighting dimmed to signal the battle cruiser had engaged its cloak.

"What in the name of Kahless," he swore upon finally pulling up the helm controls.

According to the display the T'Acog had just crossed into Federation space. He swore and slammed his padded fist onto the console; none of it made any sense. One thing was clear, he saw no way for this to benefit the Empire. The Federation would not fear the Fek'Ihri, it would not incite the primordial rage in them that it would incite in the citizens of the Empire.

Logruk hurried to a nearby equipment locker and when he returned he was holding a disruptor. He moved deeper into engineering in search of the cloaking device. When he found it he removed the access panel and leveled the disruptor at the components inside. Logruk fired three shots and as smoke and sparks erupted from the bulkhead the lighting returned to normal. He turned and began firing at console after console, if the Fek'Ihri wanted a ship they would have one that was helpless or he would kill them all trying. Alarm klaxons began to sound throughout the T'Acog yet even then the Fek'Ihri didn't come for him. The battle cruiser shuddered and fell out of warp, seemingly adrift. Logruk turned to the one good console and began transmitting a distress call hoping it would be answered.

End Notes:
Edit: Fixed issues with odd characters being displayed in place of quotation marks.
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