"Rightful Heir"

Data was on the bridge in command, with N.D. crewmembers at all other positions. Riker and other crewmembers entered from the fore and aft Turbolifts. While Riker moved to Data, the other members of Riker's shift took over their positions from the people on Data's shift. No one moved to relieve the N.D. Ensign standing at Tactical.

"Good morning, Commander." Data said.

"Data. Interesting night?" Riker said.

"I found it extremely interesting. The lateral sensor array performed three separate spectral analyses of the Alwanir Nebula on three distinct frequencies."

"Sorry I missed it."

"I will have the reports sent to you." Data said missing the tone. "We are still on course for the Gariman system, our speed is warp six and our ETA is thirteen hundred hours. Sickbay reported one minor injury in the exobiology department at zero four twenty hours." he said and started making the report.

"Very well." Riker said and glanced up at Tactical and frowned.

The Ensign was still standing there, waiting awkwardly.

"Isn't Worf supposed to relieve Ensign Torigan?" he asked Data.

"Yes, sir. I was not informed of any change in the duty roster."

"He's never late." he said concerned. "Riker to Lieutenant Worf." he said on com but there was silence. "Computer, locate Lieutenant Worf."

"Lieutenant Worf is in his quarters." computer said.

Data and Riker exchanged looks.

Something's wrong. Data, you have the Bridge." Riker said. "Security, meet me on deck seven, section twenty-five baker." he said to the com and left.

Riker and two N.D. security crewmembers moved down the Corridor and came to a stop outside Worf's Quarters. The Security Officers took up positions on either side of Riker as he reached for the door panel. He pressed it but got no response.

"Computer, override the security lock on this door. Authorization: Riker alpha six zero." Riker said to com.

The doors opened to reveal a dark and murky room filled with dense smoke. They cautiously left to Worf's quarters.

As Riker and the two officers entered the room. The room was filled with acrid smoke and was lit only with dimly seen ceremonial candles. They looked about for a moment, trying to peer through the gloom. Suddenly, they were startled by a throaty roar out of the darkness.

"TORVA LUK DO SHELL!" Worf said sitting cross-legged on the deck in his bedroom.

He was wearing some kind of Klingon ceremonial robe staring into a small fire which was blazing in a stone firepit that was sitting in the center of the bedroom. The look on his face was feral, intense... Klingon. This, combined with the red light of the fire, the smoke, and the dark shadows made this an almost satanic, other-worldly scene.

There was a minute, and then Worf lifted his eyes from the fire and saw Riker... his mouth twisted into a snarl.

"Worf?" Riker said shocked. "What the hell are you doing?"

Worf suddenly came back to the here and now and the snarl on his face gave way to sudden realization and surprise.

Later Riker and Picard were in the Ready Room sitting at the desk.

"He had no explanation at all?" Picard said.

"Not a word. He just got dressed and then reported for duty as if nothing had happened." Riker said. "Captain, this isn't the first... problem I've had with Worf lately."

"Oh?" Picard said surprised.

"Until now, it wasn't anything serious so I didn't bring it to your attention. But, to be blunt, he's been getting... sloppy. His duty reports have been incomplete, he's fallen behind in maintenance checks, he just seems... distracted."

Picard thought for a moment.

"Where's Worf now?" he asked.

"I confined him to quarters.

Picard thought for a another minute, then stood and headed for the door.

"You have the Bridge, Number One." he said.

"Aye, sir." Riker said and they left.

In Worf's quarters the smoke was gone, the normal lights were on, and the fire had been put out. Worf was lying on his bed, staring up at the ceiling. Then the door chimed. He heard it, but was listless, almost apathetic. Then the door chimed a second time.

"Enter." Worf said.

As Picard entered he looked around the room... the ritual candles, lava rocks, and remnants of the fire pit were all still in evidence. The room was a mess, with Klingon implements and clothes lying all over the place. He carefully picked his way through the detritus and moved toward the bedroom.

When Worf saw him, he moved to a sitting position on the bed.

"Captain." he said.

Picard noted the untidy room and Worf's indifferent attitude so decided to give him a wake-up call.

"On your feet, Lieutenant." he said hard.

Worf's head snapped up at the tone in Picard's voice and he stood stiffly.

"Sir." he said.

"Mister Worf, your personal affairs are strictly your concern unless they interfere with the operation of this ship. You've crossed that line. Now as your Captain, I want to know exactly what's going on." Picard said firm.

Worf looked at him for a moment then responded both to the sound of command and the note of compassion in Picard's voice.

"It is... difficult to explain." he said.


Worf nodded after a beat and seemed to accept the need to get this out into the open. He moved about the room, wrestling with some inner turmoil.

"Ever since I returned from the Carraya system I have felt... empty..." he said.

Picard reacted to the mention of the Carraya system and remembered Worf's reluctance to talk about this and he was careful not to push him too far.

"Does this have something to do with the Klingons you... rescued from Carraya Four?" he asked and Worf nodded.

"They were young... they knew nothing of their heritage. So while I was there, I tried to... teach them... teach them about their people, their culture."

A passion and fire came into Worf's eyes and in his movements that was missing only a moment ago as he remembered his experiences.

"I told them our ancient stories... instructed them in our customs... explained our beliefs. And then I told them about Kahless... how he united our people long ago... how he gave us honor and strength... and how he promised to return one day and lead us again." he said. "It took time... but I saw them begin to discover the warriors within themselves... to believe in Kahless and his teachings... and to become truly Klingon. It was ... unlike anything I had experienced before."

Picard looked down at the rocks and debris scattered around the room.

"Is that what you were doing here? Trying to recapture those feelings?" he asked and Worf nodded.

"I was trying to summon a vision of Kahless."

"You might have tried using the Holodeck instead of setting your quarters on fire." Picard said lightly.

"Using the Holodeck would not be appropriate... everything had to be real if Kahless were to appear." he said in defeat. "But all this was for nothing... he did not come to me." he said and moved to a small Klingon statue sitting prominently on a shelf and looked at it. "I gave Toq and the others a belief in Sto-Vo-Kor: the life which lies beyond this life... where Kahless awaits us." he said. "When I saw the power of their belief... I began to question the strength of my own. And I found it... wanting."

"Have you lost your... faith in Sto-Vo-Kor?"

"To lose something, one must first possess it... I am not sure I ever had a true belief." Worf said and looked at him feeling guilty about the way he's been acting. "But I should not have allowed it to interfere with my duties. My behavior has been -"

"Inexcusable." Picard said. "But understandable. You are the only Klingon in Starfleet... and one of the few raised by human parents. Perhaps the problem is that you have only studied the beliefs of your people... only looked at them from the outside." he said and moved around the room for a moment.

"It may be that what you seek cannot be found on the Enterprise. You may need to immerse yourself in Klingon beliefs before you can discover whether they hold any truths for you." he said. "Is there anything you could do... any place you could go... to explore your faith more fully?"

Worf thought for a moment.

"Boreth. The Followers of Kahless wait there for his return. To Klingons, there is no more sacred place." he said.

Picard considered him for a long minute.

"Boreth is twelve days from here by shuttle. As of this moment, you are on leave." he said.

"Thank you, Captain."

"I hope you find what you're looking for, Mister Worf." Picard said. "Because the next time you set foot on this ship I expect you to carry out your duties like a Starfleet officer."

"Aye, sir." he said and Picard left.

Worf moved back to the statue.

At Boreth thee planet surface was mountainous... desolate... no cities or dwellings of any kind except for a single temple situated high up on the tallest mountaintop.

Worf's eyes were closed and he was sweating heavily.

"Torva... Luk..." he said low and intense.

"... Do Shell..." someone said.

Worf was sitting cross-legged on the floor of the cave along with several N.D. Klingons including one named Torin. All were dressed in ceremonial robes and were sitting around a smoking fire pit with their eyes closed. There were candles and Klingon artifacts in evidence with smoke drifting throughout the cave. The heat was intense and had been there for several hours.

They all opened their eyes and stared into the flames. One Klingon took a small pail and poured some water on the flames, which then crackle and sizzle, sending out even more smoke. Suddenly, one young Klingon - Divok - looked up and reacted to something.

"Kahless! I see Kahless!" Divok said and they looked at him with pleasure except Worf, who was disappointed that he was not the one receiving the vision.

Another Klingon, this one much older - Koroth the Head Cleric in charge of this place, nodded in satisfaction. He was an older man, his hair mostly gray at this point, he was lean and trim a man whose life was uncluttered by indulgence of any kind. He wore a ceremonial garment that was part priestly vestment, part battle armor.

Divok continued to watch something which only he could see. His face was drenched with sweat and he seemed on the verge of total exhaustion.

"He is standing before me... holding a sword... he wants something... me, he wants me! He wants me to go with him!" he said and got to his feet and started to move toward the unseen vision.

Worf and the others had to catch him before he fell into the fire and collapsed into Worf's arms, his energy totally spent.

"It is a powerful vision you have had, Divok. Kahless has asked you to join him in Sto-Vo-Kor. You are only nineteen and yet your place among the honored dead is already secure." Koroth said and motioned to the others. "Take him back to his chamber. Let him sleep."

Divok let the others help him up some crude steps and out of the cave. Everyone left except Worf. He remained standing near the fire pit, with defeat written on his face. After a minute, Worf dowsed the fire with water and it went out.

In Worf's small, spartan room with a single hard bed, a bench and a crude chest. The building and furnishings were obviously quite old. It should look like a monk's room at a monastery. Worf was taking some personal items from the chest and packing them in his haversack. He was facing away from the open doorway when Koroth entered.

"You are leaving us." Koroth said.

"It has been ten days, Koroth. But I have had no visions... I have received no insight." Worf said without turning around. "There is nothing for me here."

Koroth took a few steps in the small room.

"What is the story of The Promise, Worf?"

Worf said nothing for a minute.

"When Kahless united the people and gave them the laws of honor, he saw that his work was done. So one night he gathered his belongings and went to the edge of the city to say good-bye." he said.

"The people wept... they did not want him to go." he said picking up the thread of the story.

"And Kahless said, "You are Klingons. You need no one but yourselves. I will go now... to Sto-Vo-Kor. But I promise one day I will return." Then Kahless pointed to a star in the sky and said, "Look for me there... on that point of light.""

Koroth opened his arms and indicated the entire room.

"So here we are... on a world circling that distant point of light. It has been over fifteen centuries since he made that promise... and still we wait." he said. "What are ten days in the life of one Klingon compared to that? Is the son of Mogh really so easily discouraged?" he asked and Koroth turned away from Worf and moved a few steps away. "You came to us seeking answers... but this is a place of questions. Open your heart to Kahless... ask him your questions... let him speak to you with your mind unclouded by doubt or hesitation. Only then can you find what you are looking for." he said. "If you cannot do that... then perhaps you should return to your starship." he said and left.

Worf took a minute to consider the star in the wall.

In the Temple the Temple was more like a war room than a church. There were weapons on display everywhere, proud banners and emblems adorn the walls and the room was dominated at one end by a single ornate chair sitting on a raised platform. There was a bat'leth sword on the chair. There were a few spartan benches in the room.

Worf entered from a doorway and walked through the temple. No other Klingons were in sight and the Temple was completely still... only the low sound of the wind outside can be heard. He approached a large painting on the wall.

It was a heroic rendering of Kahless standing alone. He was dressed in a distinctive garment that was very different from the normal Klingon battledress. His features were clearly visible in the painting and he seemed to beckoning someone to follow him.

Worf studied the painting for a moment.

"I will open my heart, Kahless." he said softly. "I will..."

Later at the Lava caves Worf was sweating heavily as he concentrated... the smoke was thick in the air... Divok was sitting nearby watching and tending the fire.

"Torva... Luk... Do... Shell..." Worf said and opened his eyes and looked into the flames.

There was a long minute and then suddenly there was a swirl of smoke and light on the opposite side of the fire from Worf. A figure began to coalesce in the cave. Suddenly Kahless was standing before Worf in the cave.

He was dressed in the same garments as seen in the painting. Worf's expression was one of awe and elation.

"I see Kahless." he said.

Divok reacted to the sight with shock.

As Kahless blinked for a second. Worf didn't see Divok run out of the cave in terror. He stood up, unaware that anything was wrong. Kahless looked around for a moment... then stepped forward.

Kahless moved toward him and reached out his hand. Worf hesitated, unsure what to do... and then he reached out tentatively. They clasp handed just as Divok and several other Klingons came coming running into the cave. They stopped in shock at the sight of Kahless.

Kahless looked up at them and Worf turned as well... he suddenly realized that everyone could see him He turned back to him in shock.

"You are... real?" Worf said.

"I am Kahless... and I have returned." Kahless said in a strong, clear voice.

Kahless entere the temple from the Lava Caves. The crowd of Klingons were all following him in silent amazement. Worf was bringing up the rear of the crowd, stunned and shocked... unsure what to think or believe.

Kahless stride into the center of the room and looked around for a minute. His gaze fell on the empty chair with the bat'leth sword. He smiled and moved toward it. He was about to pick it up when Koroth's voice boomed out.

"What are you doing?" he asked.

Koroth was standing at the rear of the room, outrage clear on his face. The other Klingons exchanged nervous glances among themselves and then part to let Koroth walk to the front of the room. Kahless faced Koroth calmly, confidently.

"Who are you?"

"It is Kahless!" Divok called out to Koroth.

Koroth glanced toward the large painting and then back to Kahless.

"I have returned." Kahless said quietly.

His gaze was intense, powerful... there was a magnetism and strength to this man that even Koroth can feel, but Koroth's eyes still narrow in suspicion.

"You doubt me." he continued and turned and looked at the gathered Klingons watching him with rapt attention in the Temple. waiting to see what he will do or say.

His voice now rings out in the silence... strong and sure.

"Who here knows the story of how this sword was forged?" he said.

People looked at each other in puzzlement. Torin finally answered.

"No one knows. It is not written in the sacred texts." Torin said.

Kahless looked at Koroth, who was watching him carefully, then turned back to the crowd.

"I went into the mountains... all the way to the Kri'stak Volcano. I cut off a lock of my hair and thrust it into the river of molten rock which poured from the summit. The hair began to burn, but then I plunged it into the lake of Lusor and twisted it into a sword." Kahless said and turned to Koroth. "And after I used it to kill the tyrant Molor I gave it a name: bat'leth, the sword of honor."

Koroth's eyes widen and he took a step back, shocked by what he has heard.

"You know..." he said and turned to others. "The story of the sword is known only to the High Clerics... it was never written down, so that if he returned, we could be sure it was Kahless."

Satisfied with Koroth's acceptance, Kahless turned to the expectant crowd.

"I have returned because there is a great need in my people... they fight among themselves in petty wars and corrupt the glory of the Klingon spirit. They have lost their way. But it is not too late. I have returned and I will lead my people again!" he said.

Koroth stood before Kahless and then very deliberately went down on one knee.

"Vorcha-doh-baghk, Kahless!" Koroth said.

(All hail Kahless)

Then following his lead, everyone in the room dropped to one knee... swept away by the emotion of the moment. Only Worf remained standing in the doorway to the caves... unsure what to do.

"Vorcha-doh-baghk, Kahless!" the crowd said.

Kahless looked out over the crowd with confidence. He saw Worf standing alone in the back of the room... their eyes met for a moment, then Worf looked away, confused and uncertain.

Later Worf entered his chambers and went directly to his haversack and started looking for something. He pulled out a tricorder just as Kahless entered behind him.

"What is it you are doing?" Kahless asked.

Worf turned quickly, hiding the tricorder momentarily then pulled it out and showed it to Kahless.

"I was getting my tricorder." he said.

"Tri-Corder? Is it a weapon?"

"No. It is a tool. I was going to use it to see if you were..." Worf said and trailed off.

Kahless smiled.

"To see if I were real. Proceed. Use your Tri-Corder." he said.

Worf scanned him with the tricorder. He reacted with surprise to what he saw.

"Well?" Kahless said.

"You are... Klingon."

"What else could I be?"

"There are many possibilities... a shape shifter, a holographic projection..."

Kahless laughed gently.

"... So, you are a skeptic, Worf. I like that..." he said.

"How do you know my name?"

"We have met before. I appeared to you in a vision... in the caves of No'Mat... you were a child then... and I told you..." Kahless started. "... that you would do something... no Klingon had ever done before..." he said trying to remember.

"Yes..." Worf said stunned.

"Was I ... correct?..."

Worf nodded.

"I... am the first Klingon to serve in Starfleet."

Kahless smiled.

"Star-Fleet"... there are still many things you will have to explain to me." he said.

Worf looked at him with a mixture of puzzlement and awe.

"You have a question." he continued.

"Why did you appear when I was in the cave? Why not appear to Koroth, or Torin?" he asked.

Kahless smiled and put a hand on his shoulder.

"Perhaps it is because you have the heart of a true warrior." he said and studied him for a moment. "You still do not believe it is me, do you Worf?..."

Worf took a long moment... put aside the tricorder and then met his gaze again.

"I... want to believe." he said.

Kahless smiled.

"That is a ... beginning... ."

Kahless gestured out the door and after a minute Worf moved toward the door and they left together.

"Captain's Log: Stardate 46852.2. Our mission to Endora Seven has been cancelled on orders from Starfleet Command. The Enterprise is to proceed directly to the planet Boreth, to take aboard a very unusual guest." Picard said.

Picard, Riker, Data, and Deanna were in the Observation Lounge sitting at the table.

"Kahless? Hasn't he been dead for over a thousand years?" Riker asked.

"One thousand five hundred and forty-seven years to be exact." Data said.

"Do the Klingons actually believe that this is the real Kahless?"

"It would seem that at least Gowron believes it. He personally contacted the Federation Council and asked that a starship be sent to bring Kahless back to the Home World." Deanna said.

"Why wouldn't he send a Klingon ship?" Riker asked.

"Gowron would only say that there were certain... security concerns which prompted him to make this request. As the nearest starship to Boreth, the task is ours." Picard said.

"Have we heard from Worf?" Deanna asked.

"No. All communication with Boreth has been cut-off since yesterday."

That sounded ominous and they all exchanged looks. Picard took a minute, then got up and headed for the door.

"Set course for Boreth, Number One. Warp six." Picard said.

"Aye, sir." Riker said and they all left.

Back at the temple the temple was swarming with Klingons... a massive celebration was underway complete with ample food and bombastic Klingon opera filling the air. Tables and benches had been brought in to fill the area. A large stone cistern was filled with liquid of some type and various Klingons plunge goblets into it and then drink heartily. The room was festive, almost giddy with celebration as Klingons slapped each other around in macho good fellowship.

Kahless was sitting on the raised chair and Koroth and Torin were both sitting near him, while Worf occupied a bench nearby.

Worf was watching the proceedings with a reserved expression on his face... not joining in the celebration. Kahless was listening to Torin.

"Gowron is the Leader of the Council... he commands the entire Defense Force... if he chooses to oppose you..." Torin said cautioning.

This didn't faze Kahless in the least.

"Do not worry. We stand on the threshold of a new era for our people... Klingons from all over the Empire... will flock to my banner..." he said to Koroth and Torin. "And yet something still weighs heavy on the brow of the son of Mogh..."

Worf looked up and saw Kahless looking directly at him. A few heads turned and Worf was a little uncomfortable at this very public dialog, but didn't flinch from answering honestly.

"Are you contemplating yet another question for me?" Kahles continued. "After three days, I am beginning to wonder if you know how to do anything else." he said with an ironic smile.

This elicits a few feeble chuckled, but there was a definite edge beginning to creep into Kahless' voice and more and more heads were starting to turn toward this conversation.

"Questions are the beginning of wisdom... it is the mark of a true warrior." Worf said.

The smile on Kahless' face lost some of its mirth. The room got a little quieter.

"But do not forget that a leader need not answer questions from those he leads... it is enough that he says to do a thing... and they will do it. If he says to run, they run... if he says to fight, they fight... if he says to die..." he said. "... they die."

"Yes. If the... commander is worthy of their trust." Worf said.

The Temple was now dead silent... everyone was watching the exchange with mounting tension. The air crackled between the two men.

Kahless quickly stood, a feral look on his face. Without breaking eye contact with Worf, he moved into a clear space in the room. Kahless picked up his bat'leth and stepped into the clearing and waited.

Worf looked around for a minute... all eyes were on him. After a moment, he stepped into the clearing and faced Kahless. Someone threw a bat'leth to Worf and he gripped it tightly... they both tensed and waited.

Koroth moved closer and looked from Worf to Kahless and back.

"E'Gok!" he said. (Begin!)

Worf and Kahless swung their swords at each other and started to fight.

The fight was fast-paced... intense... each man looking for an opening, but finding none.

The fight built... the ferocity of the crowd grew with every blow... suddenly their swords locked together. Kahless pulled Worf backward and they both went flying into a nearby table.

Both men scrambled to their feet and faced each other... there was a tense minute and suddenly Kahless roared with laughter. Worf and the crowd fell silent, unsure how to respond. Kahless' laugh filled the room for a moment... then he looked around at the astonished faces of the gathered Klingons.

"What is wrong? Is there only anger and bloodlust in your souls? Is that all that is left in the Klingon heart?" he asked. "We do not fight merely to spill blood, but to enrich the spirit. Look at us... two warriors locked in battle, fighting for honor. How can you keep from ... singing... out for all to hear," he said. "... "We are Klingons!"..." he said loud and broadly.

There was a minute... and then smiled form on their faces... tentative at first.

"... Yes! Let it out!... Let the joy in your heart be heard!" he said and laughed again and it started to spread throughout the gathering. "We are Klingons!"

They started to shout and yell... a surge of emotion swept through the hall. The noise of the crowd started a shriek of pure joy.

"We are Klingons!" he said then turned and caught Worf's eye, who was standing in the middle of all this revelry with uncertainty.

There was a moment and then Worf started to smile. Kahless threw an arm around him and they moved off into the crowd together...

Worf's shuttlecraft has just landed in the bay. Picard, Riker, and Deanna were waiting. The shuttlecraft door opened and Kahless entered from the shuttlecraft, followed by Koroth, Torin and Worf.

Kahless looked around the bay for a minute... his attitude was curious about his surroundings, but not shocked by them. He's never been on a spaceship, but Kahless has that regal bearing that refuses to be over-awed by anything. Picard and Riker stepped forward.

"Welcome aboard the Enterprise. I'm Captain Jean-Luc Picard." Picard said.

Kahless looked to Worf.

"This is the... "human" you told me about?" Kahless said.

"Yes." Worf said.

Kahless turned back to Picard and clapped him on the shoulder so hard it almost knocked Picard down.

"You must be a mighty warrior to command such respect." Kahless said.

"Thank you." Picard said recovering quickly.

Kahless' eye noticed Deanna and he beamed with pleasure.

"And you do me a great honor by giving me one of your women." he said.

Worf quickly stepped in.

"They have... different ways." he said.

"Ah. Then she is not a gift." Kahless said unfazed.


Koroth moved to Kahless' side.

"It is as I said... we should be on a Klingon warship. This is not the place for us." he said.

"Their customs may be different, but Worf tells me they are not dishonorable... and I am eager to see the weapons on this "Star-Ship."" Kahless said.

Picard moved in smoothly.

"I would be happy to arrange a tour of the entire ship for you, once you've settled in. Perhaps Commander Riker could begin by showing you your quarters." he said.

"That is acceptable."

"Then, if you'll follow me..." Riker said and Kahless, Torin and Koroth followed him out of the shuttlebay.

Later Picard, Riker, Deanna, Data, Geordi and Beverly were In the Observation lounge questioning Worf.

Geordi had asked Wesley to take care of the Engineering until he came back as usual.

"Did you take any other tricorder readings... a neuro-physiology scan or an anatomical profile?" Beverly asked Worf.

"No." Worf said.

"Then it's going to be hard to eliminate any possibility at this point. He could be a coalescent being taking Klingon form... a bioreplicant... or even a Klingon surgically altered to resemble Kahless..." she said to the others.

"I felt no deception or malice from him... just an over-whelming sense of confidence... almost arrogance." Deanna said.

"Worf, what are his plans when he returns to the Home World?" Picard asked.

"He wants to restore the glory of the Empire by purging it of dishonor and corruption." Worf said.

"I don't think Gowron's going to like the sound of that." Riker said.

"That might have something to do with why he wanted a Federation ship to bring Kahless. Gowron may not want to be seen embracing this... Messiah before he knows what Kahless wants." Geordi said.

"Perhaps this Kahless is a... stalking horse for someone else... someone who intends to seize control from Gowron." Picard said.

"It is not an... empirical matter. It is a matter of... faith." Worf said.

"Faith. Then you do believe Kahless may have... supernatural attributes?" Data said.

Worf was uncertain and he said nothing.

"As an android, I am unable to accept something which cannot be proven through rational means. I would appreciate hearing your insight on this matter."

"Perhaps some other time, Commander. I do not believe I could provide much... insight at the moment."

Data nodded and they both left.

"Like the Duras sisters..." Riker said.

"Or the B'nok faction."

"There is another possibility." Worf said. "It could be the real Kahless. He may have actually returned... as he promised."

Worf's statement was met with silence. Then Data broke the uncomfortable quiet after a minute.

"The appearance of Kahless in the lava cave is consistent with the stories found in the Klingon sacred texts." he said.

"No offense, Worf... but I have trouble believing that the man I just escorted to deck eight is... supernatural." Riker said.

"I am not saying that he is... I merely think we should not completely reject the possibility." Worf said.

"We have no reason to rule out anything. We haven't been ordered to discover the origins of our guest, or tell anyone what they should believe... we are simply to transport Kahless to the Home World... and while he's with us, he will be treated as an honored guest." Picard said then stood and the meeting broke up.

Everyone headed for the door, but Data stopped Worf for a moment.

"Lieutenant. May I ask you a personal question?" Data asked. "In the absence of empirical data, how will you determine whether or not this is the real Kahless?" he said off his nod.

Later Worf was in his quarters showing Kahless a ceremonial knife.

"It was given to me during my Rite of Ascension by a man who had known my father." Worf said.

Kahless took the knife... felt the heft of the weapon.

"Did you observe the Rite here... among these aliens?..." he asked surprised.

"No... I returned to the Home World for the ceremony. But these... aliens have allowed me to conduct other Klingon rituals on the Enterprise. They understand that it is part of me."

"You mentioned a son... where is he?"

"He is visiting my adoptive parents on Earth."

"Will he understand our ways growing up among all these... aliens?"

"I have instructed him in our traditions... but Alexander will have to find his own path... as I did."

Kahless considered the knife for a moment.

"A good knife... well forged. But even the best blade will rust and grow dull unless it is cared for..." he said and returned it to Worf who replaced the knife in a sheath.

Kahless moved about the room, noting the various artifacts and Klingon emblems.

"I was concerned that living with aliens would dull your edge." he said. "I am pleased to see that I was wrong." he said and moved directly to Worf and put a hand on his shoulder.

"You have stood alone among these aliens... kept our traditions and our customs... held on to your heritage with no guidance from a Klingon mother or father... and you were willing to face me in single combat knowing that you had no chance to win." he said. "You are Klingon... and I would be proud to fight with you at my side."

Kahless' force of personality and magnetism gave the words a profound impact on Worf. The greatest Klingon warrior of them all had just validated his entire life. The look on Worf's face was pride mixed with awe for Kahless.

On the bridge Riker was in command and Data was at Ops.

"Commander, there is an incoming message. Text only." Data said off console and Riker moved to Ops. "It is from Gowron. He is aboard the Klingon ship Bortas and is requesting that we alter course to rendezvous with him."

"The rendezvous coordinates are twenty-three light years outside the Klingon Border. What's he up to?" Riker said reading the console. "Prepare to alter course." he said to Con officer. "Captain Picard to the Bridge, please." he said on com.

In the transporter room Picard was standing near the platform as Gowron and an N.D. Klingon Aide materialized.

Gowron was wearing his leader's cloak on his shoulders and a scowl on his face. The Aide was carrying some kind of ceremonial box. Gowron moved directly to Picard, tension and rage in his every move.

"Welcome aboard, Gowron." Picard said.

"Where is he, Picard?" Gowron asked short.

"I assume you're referring to Kahless."

"I am referring to the filthy pahtak who is using his name."

"Well, the... person in question is in his quarters at the moment."

Gowron and the Aide headed for the door and Picard quickly went with them as they left.

Then they entered from the Transporter Room.

"What have you learned about him so far? What kind of medical analysis have you done? Do you have any theories about his true origin?" Gowron asked rapidly.

"We haven't done any analyses." Picard said.

"What kind of fools do you have working for you, Picard? The imposter's been aboard for nearly a day."

"If you wanted to run tests on Kahless, you should've sent a Klingon vessel for him."

"And have him begin spreading his poisonous lies through a ship of loyal Klingons? Never."

"If he's really an imposter you shouldn't have anything to worry about." Picard said then Gowron stopped and turned on him.

"Kahless has been dead for a thousand years... but the idea of Kahless is still alive. Have you ever fought an idea, Picard? It has no weapon to destroy, no body to kill. The idea of Kahless' return must be stopped here. Now. Or it will travel through the Empire like a wave... and leave nothing but destruction behind." he said.

Later Kahless, Koroth, Torin, and Worf were in Kahless' quarters listening to Picard.

"... so Gowron has come aboard in order to test your claim." Picard said.

"Gowron knows his days are nearly over... so now he comes crawling aboard with some kind of "test."" Koroth said with contempt.

"We do not have to prove anything to Gowron." Torin said.

"What is this... test?" Kahless asked.

"He has brought a knife with him... a knife that was supposed to be stained with the blood of Kahless." Picard said.

"Gowron has brought the Knife of Kirom? No one is permitted to remove it from the sacred vault." Torin said appalled.

"Gowron does not care about what is sacred." Koroth said.

"Gowron wants to run a genetic analysis on a sample of the blood and on you. It should tell us if there is a... biological match." Picard said to Kahless. "If you agree to the test... I will make the Enterprise facilities available to... ensure that it is conducted impartially."

Kahless seemed genuinely unconcerned about all this he let his gaze wander over to Worf, who was struggling with his own feelings. He and Worf exchanged a long look.

"Perhaps it is time to settle the doubts of those who do not yet believe..." Kahless said. "I will allow the test."

It was very old and stained with blood. A hand entered the frame and waved a medical scanner over it.

At Sickbay Beverly was scanning the knife with the scanner and holding her tricorder in the other hand. Gowron, the Aide, Worf, and Picard were watching. She finished the scan.

"All right... that should do it." Beverly said and put Beverly puts the scanner back in the tricorder and worked it for a moment.

The Aide carefully replaced the knife in the ceremonial box seen earlier.

"Computer, run a genetic comparison on this blood sample and the tissue belonging to Kahless." Beverly said.

As she moved to the large wall monitor and activated it. The screen was scrolling two DNA images side by side... scanning them and comparing them. Everyone watched the screen anxiously. Finally the scan was complete and the image stopped scrolling. The two DNA patterns were identical.

"The genetic patterns are identical." computer said.

"But how... how can this be?" Gowron asked stunned.

Worf stared at the screen for a moment... then an expression of pure joy came across his face.

"It is true... Kahless has returned." he said.

"Koroth and Torin were in Kahless' quarter looking over some PADDS at a table. Then the door chimed..

"Enter." Koroth said and Worf entered.

He seemed happy.

"Koroth, Torin." he said. "I had hoped to speak with Kahless..." he said and looked around.

Koroth and Torin exchanged glances.

"Another time, Worf. There is much for Kahless to do before we arrive at the Home World... many things to consider." Koroth said apologetic.

A little disappointed, Worf began to move toward the door.

"Worf?" Kahless' voice said.

Kahless had just entered from the bedroom. He smiled warmly and clasped Worf on the shoulder in good fellowship.

"Where are you going?" he asked and Worf glanced at Koroth and Torin.

"Kahless, it might be better if -" Koroth started gently.

"Go away, Koroth. I've listened to you and Torin until my ears burn with politics. Let me and Worf be alone for a while." Kahless said impatiently.

Koroth wanted to object, but Kahless' wishes were pretty apparent. Koroth and Torin exchanged uneasy glances, then bow to the inevitable.

"As you wish." Koroth said and they left.

Kahless moved to a pitcher sitting on a table and poured a drink for himself and Worf.

"They are good men. But they chatter like tree hens." he said and they laughed.

Then he handed the goblet to Worf and they each took a swallow. Worf screwed up his face in distaste.

"I am sorry our replicators do not do justice to Klingon Warnog..." he said.

Kahless took another taste then shook his head. He couldn't taste the difference.

"It has been so long since I have tasted any food or drink... there are many things I have forgotten." he said.

Worf was a little disturbed by this... some flaws were showing up in his hero. There was a quiet minute.

"Kahless, may I ask you about... death... and Sto-Vo-Kor? Tell me what awaits us beyond this life." Worf asked.

Kahless moved to the window and looked out into space. He said nothing for a long moment. Worf waited with anticipation... hoping that the secrets of life and death were about to be unveiled to him. Finally Kahless turned back to him.

"I do not have those answers." he said.

Worf's disappointment and confusion was obvious. Kahless moved to him... seeming eager to explain.

"I am merely a... traveler... someone who has journeyed back and forth between this world and the next." he said. While I am in this form, I know only about this world..." he said and Worf nodded understanding. "And there is much work for me to do in this world... and you will be part of it, Worf."

"Me?" Worf said surprised.

Kahless smiled.

"It was your purity of heart that summoned me back from Sto-Vo-Kor... and Koroth has told me about the respect you have earned in the Federation and the Empire. I want you to have a place at my side as we restore honor to our people." he said.

Worf was overwhelmed by this thought... Kahless moved back to the window and looked out into space much more confident now.

"Let me tell you about the new Empire we will forge..." hesaid.

"Later Worf was in the Observation Lounge standing at the window looking out into space. Gowron was sitting at the table. Worf's was eager and optimistic.

"... it will be glorious." he said and smiled and looked out into space for a minute.

Gowron was not swayed by anything Worf had told him... he scowled at Worf in bitterness.

"It will be war." he said.

Worf turned back to him in irritation.

"You are not a fool, Worf. Do you really think that every Klingon in the Empire will bend his knee and grovel before this man just because Koroth says he is Kahless?" Gowron asked.

"He is Kahless. Your own test proved it." Worf said.

"I will not hand over the Empire to Koroth because of one test."

"It is not Koroth, it is -"

"Of course it is Koroth. Open your eyes... Koroth and the other "Guardians" have always opposed me. This is nothing more than a ploy for them to finally seize power." Gowron said and took a minute... moved to the windows and looked outside for a moment. "Even now, there are warriors on my own ship who want to see Kahless... there are others who believe he is an imposter... the divisions are already forming..."

"It does not have to be that way... we could all join together and welcome Kahless as a united people."

"Don't you see? This is exactly why they want you to join them... because your brother sits on the Council and your voice carries weight in the Empire. They want you to influence others to follow them." Gowron said and considered him for a moment... tried a different approach. "Worf, we fought together once... side by side to keep the Empire from being torn apart... will you stand by and let these impostors destroy all that we fought so hard to protect?" he asked. "Renounce him, Worf. Stand with me and we can hold the Empire together."

Worf looked at him for a moment... then shook his head sadly.

"You do not understand. Kahless is our future... only with his help can we revive the pure warriors within ourselves." he said. "Listen to him, Gowron... open your heart and hear his words as I have. He will restore your faith... as he has restored mine. Give him a chance to lift your spirit and cleanse your heart before you take up arms."

Gowron appeared to be considering Worf's words.

Later Worf and Koroth were walking toward the Holodeck and Koroth was disturbed.

"You should not have arranged this without my approval." he said.

They stopped outside the Holodeck doors.

"I did. Kahless approved." Worf said.

There was a long minute before Koroth answered in a low, tight voice.

"Yes. Yes, of course he did." he said.

Worf touched the computer panel and they both left to the Holodeck.

The Holodeck had recreated the same Temple as earlier. They entered and found Data and Torin waiting for them. Koroth moved to speak privately with Torin, while Data approached Worf.

"Lieutenant, would my presence here be inappropriate? I would greatly appreciate the opportunity to study Klingon beliefs in this forum, but I do not wish to give offense." Data said.

"Kahless welcomes all who come to hear his words. Your presence will not give offense." Worf said.

"Thank you."

They both turned at the sound of the Holodeck doors opening.

"Just as and several N.D. Klingons entered from the Corridor. They were escorted by three N.D. Enterprise security guards. Gowron and Koroth trade spiteful looks.

"Koroth. I see that not all fools die young." Gowron said.

Suddenly an o.c. Klingon interrupted.

"Kahless!" the Klingon voice said.

They all turned and see Kahless enter the Temple. Gowron's men were shocked and even Gowron couldn't help but show some surprise as Kahless moved confidently into the room. Gowron glanced from Kahless to the large painting on the wall... he couldn't deny the unmistakable resemblance. Worf smiled at their reactions. Kahless sat in his chair. Data took an unobtrusive seat in the back.

"Kahless, may I present Gowron, Leader of the High Council." Koroth said.

Kahless gave him a regal nod.

"You may sit." he said.

Gowron decided to bide his time for the moment. He sat on one of the benches and they follow suit. Kahless looked at them for a moment... seeming completely in charge... when he spoke, he kept his voice quiet and controlled.

"Long ago, a storm was heading for the city of Quin'lat. Everyone took protection within the walls except one man who remained outside. I went to him and asked what he was doing. "I am not afraid," he said. "I will not hide my face behind stone and mortar. I will stand before the wind and make it respect me." I honored his choice and went back inside. The next day, the storm came... and the man was killed... The wind does not respect a fool." he said. "Do not stand before the wind, Gowron."

A murmur went through the crowd... the other Klingons were clearly awestruck by Kahless and the force of his personality, but Gowron's attitude only hardened.

"What was his name?" he asked.

"What?" Kahless asked.

"If you were really there, you should be able to tell us the name of the man outside the walls."

"What kind of question is that?" Koroth asked.

"I did not ask you, Koroth. I asked him." Gowron said. "Describe him to us... what was he wearing? How tall was he? What color were his eyes?" he said to Kahless.

Koroth is definitely agitated, but Kahless seemed unconcerned.

"I do not remember. It was long ago, and in another lifetime." Kahless said then stood strong "All that matters is that I have returned to restore faith and hope to my people... to lead them back to the way of honor... to the glory that was once theirs and can be again. Is that what you oppose, Gowron?"

Gowron stood and faced him squarely.

"I oppose you. I say you are not Kahless... and I will not bend my knee to you as long as I can draw a breath or pick up a blade." he said.

Gowron dropped his cloak, pulled a knife from his belt and stood waiting for Kahless. Koroth started to move between them, but Worf stopped him.

"No. I do not believe Kahless will kill him." he said to Koroth.

Koroth stopped and stepped back, but his look of worry was directed at Kahless, not Gowron. Kahless calmly pulled a knife of his own and the two men square off in the center of the room.

They circled each other warily for a moment, seeking an opening. Kahless is confident and calm... Gowron was deadly. Gowron took a swipe at Kahless, who parried it. Kahless smiled... trying to transcend the moment as he did with Worf.

"A good try, Gowron... but not enough." he said then made an attack of his own, but Gowron easily stopped it and fought back viciously.

Kahless backed up under the assault... then threw off Gowron for a moment. He laughed loudly and Gowron looked at him in puzzlement.

"You have no joy, Gowron. Is your heart so filled with distrust and suspicion that you have forgotten what it is to be truly Klingon." Kahless said.

But Gowron's heart couldn't be turned as easily as Worf's. He suddenly lunged for Kahless, knocking him back... a few more blows and Kahless' knife went flying out of his hand. Kahless was knocked down, helpless.

Gowron moved in for the kill, raising his knife in the air and preparing to plunge it into Kahless' chest. Suddenly Worf rushed in and grabbed his arm, preventing him from striking.

The room was utterly silent... everyone was transfixed by the image of Worf saving the mightiest warrior of them all from being killed. Gowron smiled and relaxed... he pulled the knife away and looked down at the helpless Kahless in triumph.

"Kahless... the greatest warrior of them all... " he said mocking.

Worf was stunned.

"There is no future here... no glorious new era for our people." Worf said hard. "Gowron was right, you don't know the name of the man who faced the storm... you don't even know what real Warnog tastes like... and you certainly are not the greatest warrior of all." he said and turned to Kahless. "Whoever you are... you're not Kahless."

The words seemed to sting Kahless and Koroth moved to get Worf out of here.

"You've said enough, now get out." Koroth said.

Worf grabbed him, slammed him against the wall and glared into his eyes.

"You are using the name of Kahless in some twisted game... for that alone you should die... and if you do not tell me what you have done, I will kill you right here." he said deadly.

Koroth looked into his eyes, saw that he meant it... then looked at Torin. Torin dropped his eyes and looked away. Finally Koroth acquiesced and Worf released him.

Koroth took a couple of steps around the room, gathering his thoughts before speaking.

"The problems with your memory... are a result of... the way you returned." he said to Kahless.

"What do you mean?" Kahless asked.

Koroth glanced at Torin.

"We - the Guardians - have been awaiting your return for centuries." he said. "But we did not have the technology to bring you back until now. We were able to use an organic sample of the first Kahless to... give you life."

"The first Kahless?"

Worf suddenly realized what happened.

"A clone. He is a clone." he said shocked.

"What is a... clone?" Kahless asked.

"A being created in a laboratory... from genetic material taken from another being. You are a copy... a fraud." Worf said disgusted.

"You are not "just" a copy. We gave you more than the body of Kahless." Koroth said to Kahless.

"We found a way to imprint specific information into your neurosynaptic patterns... we gave you memories. And not just any memories... we gave you the experiences of Kahless as written in the sacred texts." Torin said.

Kahless stood and walked around the room, trying to understand what he's hearing.

"So I did not do any of the things I remember... I was never at the city of Quin'lat... I never went to the Kri'stat Volcano..." he said. "But what about Worf? I remember appearing to him in the caves of No'Mat when he was a boy..."

"We gave you that memory as well. Worf told me of his vision when he first arrived on Boreth." Torin said.

"You were not... awakened until the moment we transported you into the cave... and you appeared to Worf. Before that time you were unconscious... in a laboratory where we accelerated your growth, corrected any genetic anomalies that occurred, and gave you the wisdom and memories that -" Koroth started.

"They grew you in a test tube... like some kind of fungus... then programmed you like a machine." Worf said.

Kahless reacted, stung by the words.

"You are twisting the truth." Koroth said defensive.

Worf has had enough of this, his anger boiled to the surface.

"You talk to me about the truth? You, who have brought this... lie to life and then called it Kahless?" he said.

"It is not a lie! Genetically, he is Kahless. And he is needed by our people. You know better than anyone the corruption and dishonor that is destroying the Empire. They need him."

"They do not need a false god."

"How do you know that this is not the way the prophesy was to be fulfilled? Who is to say that what we did is wrong?"

"I am. And I will not let this... fraud continue." Worf said and moved toward the door, but Koroth quickly stood in his way.

"Worf, you cannot tell Gowron about this." Koroth said.

But Worf wasn't in the mood to be stopped so easily. He glared hotly into his face.

"Do not give me orders, Koroth." he said low and deadly.

But Koroth didn't back off.

"All right. I won't tell you what to do. But consider this: Do you want Gowron's corruption to infect every corner of the Empire? Do you want our people to continue sacrificing their honor until they are no different from Romulans?" he asked. "If you tell Gowron what we have told you, it will destroy -" he said and nodded at Kahless. "- him... and with him the last chance to restore hope to our people. It's your choice."

Worf stepped back, looked one last time at Kahless, then left.

Worf entered the Temple and saw two

N.D. Klingons sitting cross-legged on the floor in front of the Kahless painting with a couple of lighted candles and Klingons artifacts in front of them. Worf was surprised to see them here... then started to move closer to them, but before getting there, he heard Data's voice.

"They have been here for three hours seventeen minutes." Data said sitting on one of the back benches, observing. "They refused to transport back to the ship with the rest of Gowron's men. They insisted on waiting here until they see Kahless again. Their faith appears to be unaffected by his inability to defeat Gowron. They still believe." he said and Worf looked at them with pity.

"Then they are fools." Worf said.

"Does that mean you no longer believe this is the real Kahless?"

"Yes." Worf said difficult.

Data considered.

"I am curious. Do you still believe that the real Kahless will return someday? Or has this experience only deepened the spiritual crisis which originally sent you to Boreth?" he asked.

"I... do not know."

"I understand your dilemma. I once had what could be considered a crisis of the spirit."

"You?" Worf said shocked.

"Yes. The Starfleet officers who first activated me on Omicron Theta told me that I was an android - nothing more than a very sophisticated machine in human form." Data said. "However I realized that if I were simply a machine, then I could never be anything else - I could not grow beyond my programming. I found that difficult to accept." he said. "I chose to believe that I was a person, that I had the potential to become more than a collection of circuits and subprocessors." he said. "It is a belief that I still hold."

"How did you come to your decision?"

"I believe I made a... "leap of faith.""

Worf looked over at the Klingons sitting on the floor.

In the Observation Lounge Gowron and Koroth were both trying to browbeat Picard into agreeing to their requests while Kahless sat at the table in silence... a man watching others argue over his fate. two N.D. security guards stood watch in the b.g.

"I will not allow the Enterprise to enter Klingon space with him on board." Gowron said.

"The Klingon High Council asked you to bring Kahless to the Home World. Only they can withdraw the request. The Enterprise must continue on its mission." Koroth said to Picard.

"There is no mission, Koroth... your plan has failed."

"I will enjoy watching the life bleed from your veins."

"Gentlemen, please. Let us stick to the issue at-" Picard started when Worf entered the room.

He moved to Kahless and the two men shared a silent look for a moment.

"Mister Worf?" Picard said.

"Captain, will you excuse us for a moment?" Worf asked.

"Of course." Picard said then stood and indicated for the Guards to follow him. and they all left.

Once they were gone, everyone looked to Worf to see what he will do. Then Worf moved to Gowron.

"The man that appeared to me on Boreth is not the real Kahless. He is a clone." he said.

"A clone!" Gowron said.


Koroth looked bitter and disappointed. Gowron looked at him in triumph.

"Did you really think you would get away with this kind of fraud? I will have you and this abomination put to death with -" he said to Koroth.

"It does not matter, Gowron. You will still not be able to stand against him." Worf said hard.

"What? He's not real. You just said so."

"I said he was not the real Kahless... but in the minds of our people he can be just as powerful as Kahless." Worf said. "Even now, two members of your own crew are sitting on our Holodeck... waiting for him to return."

"I do not care what they think."

"They are not alone... like many of our people, they need something to believe in... just as I did... something larger than themselves... something that will give their lives meaning. They need Kahless."

"But when they find out the truth... ?"

"It will not matter. Despite the facts, they will still believe... They will... make a leap of faith... and there will be others just like them... not everyone... but enough to plunge the Empire into civil war if you oppose them."

"What are you saying? That I should just... hand over the Empire?"

"No... that would be unwise as well."

"Then what are you proposing, Worf?" Koroth asked.

Worf moved to Kahless and looked at him.

"You were right about one thing, Koroth... our people are becoming corrupt and decadent... they need moral leadership. Kahless can be that leader... as Emperor." he said.

"There hasn't been an Emperor in three centuries!" Gowron said outraged.

"The political power would remain with the High Council. Kahless would be... a figurehead. But he would have the ability to rally the people... to lead by example... and guide them in spiritual matters."

"The title is meaningless without the power to back it up." Koroth said but Worf ignored him and addressed Kahless directly.

"Real power is in the heart. You would have the power to mold the Klingon heart... you could return them to honorable ways... according to the original teachings of Kahless, which are within you... it would be a great challenge, if you have the courage to accept it." he said.

"And what will we tell the people about their new Emperor? That he appeared in a cave or a laboratory?" Gowron asked.

"We will tell them the truth... all of the truth. But we will also tell them that even if he is not the real Kahless... he is the rightful heir to Kahless."

"And if I refuse to go along with this?"

"Then my brother and all who support him on the Council will fight you... and I will fight you... and the Empire will fall back into civil war."

Gowron considered that for a moment... finally turned to Koroth.

"What do you say to this, Koroth?" he asked.

Koroth thought for a moment... then turned to Kahless

"What I say is unimportant. What do you say?" he asked.

Kahless and Worf exchanged a long look... then Kahless found some strength deep down within himself and rose up out of the chair, regal and proud.

"It is acceptable." he said.

Koroth dropped to one knee. Worf looked at Gowron, then went down on one knee.

"Join with me, Gowron. Let us usher in this new era together." Kahless said.

Gowron took a minute, looked at Kahless, then finally bent his knee as well.

"Vorcha-doh-baghK... Kahless." he said softly.

"Later in the Transporter room Worf was saying good-bye to Kahless.

"Farewell, Worf." Kahless said.

"Good-bye." Worf said.

There was a trace of sadness in Worf's voice and a dispirited look on his face which Kahless picked up on.

"What's wrong? You should be proud of what you have accomplished." he said.

Worf shook his head.

"I went to Boreth to find my faith... and for a time I thought I did... but now, my heart is empty again. I do not know what to believe..." he said.

"You doubt the real Kahless will return one day... you doubt that he is still waiting for you in Sto-Vo-Kor?"

Worf nodded. Kahless took a minute and then reached deep down inside... and when he spoke it is the first inkling of what this man can one day become for his people... a true leader.

"Kahless left us - all of us - a powerful legacy... a way of thinking and acting that makes us Klingon. If his words hold wisdom and his philosophy is honorable... then does it really matter if he returns? What is important is whether we follow his teachings... perhaps the words are more important than the man." Kahless said and Worf considered this for a moment. "Q'apla, son of Mogh."

"Q'apla... Kahless." Worf said.

Kahless stepped up on the stage and then dematerialized.