L'Rell stood on the deck that circled around the outside of her Command Center and looked down onto the plains of Qo'nos far below. Vapors of steam and ash gushed from the volcanic mountains that surrounded her, creating a swirling haze that obscured the atmosphere and permitted her only occasional glimpses of the city. The city was darker than it needed to be, lit mostly by the dull light from its many thousands of burning, smoky torches. Seen from this distance these torches gave the whole city a soft orange glow. The city spread, seemingly without end, in every direction. The mountains in the east hadn't stopped its progress. Nor the lakes to the west. For many centuries it had been permitted to continue its conquering march above, around, across all barriers. It was considered by Klingons to be the most noble of all cities on the entire homeworld. It was the Capital of Qo'nos. She lingered as she gazed at the lights far below until the vapors thickened again and she could only see the cities faint orange glow through the haze. She stared at this glow and contemplated how the city and its people had existed, without real progress, for far too long. This city was one of the many things she had come to dislike about the Klingon homeworld. She hated those inefficient torches that honored outdated traditions. She hated the old ruins that the people called their homes. She hated the stench of the rubbish strewn misshapen streets. The ancient cities of Qo'nos had become sewers. And the beliefs and deeds of their people were as filthy. The people were cruel. Ignoble. Without honor. Without discipline. They fought among themselves constantly and in the most vile ways. They slaughtered the innocent. They worshipped the guilty. She knew that not all of them behaved so badly. But the righteous were too few in number to have any influence. The whole planet needed to be cleansed. Cured of its sickness. L'Rell turned away from the city lights and walked back into her Command Center. She had some important tasks to finish, so she walked with purpose through its foolishly ornate doors and into what had become her home during these last few months. Inside the center there was much machinery that needed tending to. The operators of the machines were all gone now, and so she alone remained to do what they could not. She quickly walked across the entrance hall and towards the consoles from where she would be issuing the necessary instructions to the empire. As she moved among the machinery she was aware of the strange silence that filled the entire area. It should have been alive with sounds of Klingons talking and laughing as they carried out their duties. But she had sent them all away. Now the loudest sound was the noise of her boots as she walked among the equipment and completed her tasks. She walked up to a console and tapped out the necessary instructions. And then she methodically moved to the next console, and then the next, until she had moved throughout the entire center. It would be very pleasing, she thought, when soon she could depart from this lonely place forever. Her work finished, she rested at a table near the line of food dispensers and contemplated why she had to remove all of the people. When she had arrived at the Command Center as the leader of the Klingon Empire she had expected her rule to be difficult. All Klingons had anger towards her. There was much resentment when she had compelled them to return from the orbit of the Earth in their warships. The destruction of the Earth was imminent, they protested, and thus she had robbed them of what would have been a great cause for festivity. The leaders of this great battle, they declared, would become legends and heroes for all time. And the celebration and feasts that winning the war against Earth would have brought upon them would be remembered by the Klingons who were there as the greatest and most heroic time in their lives. And worst of all, a woman, not even a high-born one, was the one who deprived them of so much. There was much rage towards her. She expected that. It was the Klingon way. That whoever had command of the most power should rule the empire was also the Klingon way. Through very strange circumstances it had come to be that she was now the person with the most power. She was the one who had been given possession and control of the detonator. A detonator connected to the cataclysm-causing explosive device that the Federation had planted deep into the heart of Qo'nos. This ability to cause such destruction across the planet was what her power and authority were based on. It was why the Klingons did not annihilate the Earth but instead returned home as she commanded. She had thought that if Klingons, by her order, were forced to cease their fighting they would become a more noble and honorable people. Unified. Dignified. But they hadn't become such a people. A familiar wave of revulsion surged through her. As soon as she had commenced her rule over the empire the assassination attempts began. Her enemies thought that if she were suddenly vaporized in a surprise attack she would have no opportunity to use the detonator. So, soon she could no longer go to any open public places where an assassin could be hiding. They had attempted to poison her food, air, and water. Every deadly wavelength of energy had been directed towards her. There were efforts to beam her into lava fields. And many of these attempted assassinations had occurred within her Command Center. So, she realized, the only safe response was to rid the center of all other people, automate every task that could be automated, and put the strongest defensive shields around the Command Center as was possible. But time was her enemy, and this situation could not continue forever. She knew that eventually the attempts on her life would be successful. And then, with her gone, the Klingons would return to their bloodshed. After much deep thought, she had finally realized that Klingons could not be redeemed. They would never, as the people they were now, become peaceful. Or noble or honorable. They were a repugnant species. So she had made a decision. She would give the people three days warning for them to evacuate and save themselves. And then, just as she had long warned them she would do if they remained without virtue, she would activate the detonator and devastate Qo'nos. However, even this, she thought, would not be enough to purify the Klingons. They would rebuild and regroup and, after a time, they would become the same foul people that they were before. So she knew she would have to do something unimaginable. Something that no one had ever dared to even consider as an acceptable solution. Something she would never tell anyone she had done. Changing the nature of the planet for all time was not enough. She would have to change the nature of the Klingons themselves. And only then might they become a worthy people. L'Rell had almost completed the tasks that needed to be done in order to make the Klingons a more worthy people. She walked over to the medical station to commence the final stages of this ambition. She busily tapped at its bio screen, and images of DNA strands flashed in front of her eyes. She looked for the key insertion points in this DNA, and as she found them she made the calculations and completed the insertions. Finally there was written across the screen "DNA Resequencing Completed" She then went over to the bio hazards console and replicated the delivery agent. A round metal container, the size of a drinking cup, appeared on the replicator pad. Inside this metal container was the virus that, once released into the atmosphere, would eventually insert the DNA improvements that she had created into every cell of every Klingon on Qo'nos. Carefully she lifted it off the replicator pad and took it to her table. She sat down at the table and held the container. She turned it around in her hand, looking at it from every side. When she served on the Ship of the Dead the rallying cry of House T'Kuvma was "Remain Klingon." T'Kuvma's belief was that Klingons were a high and noble people who must preserve their purity by shielding themselves from the hateful influence of all outsiders. Especially from the influence of the Humans and their Federation. She had stood amongst her companions and chanted these words herself many times. She believed them at the time. Like all the others in her house she detested Humans and saw them as a befouled enemy. She believed that the Klingons were the superior and more honorable people. But time had passed and she had seen many things. She was no longer so misled and naive as she had been when she served with House T'Kuvma. Much experience meant that she had acquired the knowledge that allowed her to compare the Klingons with the Humans. And when she did this, she could see no truth to the belief of Klingon nobility. She no longer believed her own former chanting of "Remain Klingon." She now believed that Klingon purity was of no value. It was better if they did not remain purely Klingon. Their customs should not remain Klingon. Their behavior should not remain Klingon. And even their DNA should not remain purely Klingon. There was only one more step she needed to take before she could commence this process of improving the Klingons DNA. L'Rell put the container down and turned to the console on her desk. She called up the logs giving information about the prisoners. One of the many unpleasant habits of the Klingons was that when she requested that Federation prisoners be released they would instead be massacred. Klingons found the release of live prisoners to be an unbearable humiliation. Usually it was a fire that killed the prisoners. On some occasions mass poisonings. The guards claimed such things were careless accidents. These sorts of accidents meant that although no Federation prisoners had been released since the end of the war, there were few such prisoners still alive on Qo'nos. She needed a living Human to complete her work. Fortunately, one of the better qualities of Klingons was that they were meticulous and efficient keepers of lists. If a live Human was still on Qo'nos, she would find them. She carefully studied the prison logs. The large prisons had all been emptied of living Humans by the accidents. She would have to search the smaller and lesser known places. Sometimes the prisoners thought to be of enhanced value if kept alive were contained in other places where they were less likely to have accidents. She tapped at the console as lists of prisons quickly scrolled across it. She searched methodically across Qo'nos until finally she came to one of the last prisons on the list. It was on the other side of the planet. The information showed that one prisoner was still housed, alive, in the prison. He was kept in a single cell in a remote part of the prison. Perhaps for his own protection. Perhaps he had been forgotten by the guards. She didn't really care why he was there. Only that he had what she needed. There were many hardships in being the ruler of the Klingon empire. Fortunately, one of the advantages, she thought to herself, was that she had control of the sorts of technology that surpassed all others. Even the best Klingon warships lacked some of the capabilities of her Command Center. Which of course was how it should be. The leader of the Klingon empire should have more power in their hands than even the best warship. She could use this sort of power now to lock on to this prisoner, even through the transporter shields that encased the prison, and transport him to a nearby crew quarters. He would be weak and unarmed. No threat to her. She would obtain what she needed from him. But then she did not want to send him back to die in his prison. Hence she knew he would be by her side for a long time, and she expected him to be putrid and foul. So she would direct him to clean himself with the sanitation available in the crew quarters. Even filthy Humans offended her. She locked on to his bio signs and began the transport. In a few moments she heard a thud in the crew quarters as he fell to the ground. She picked up from her desk the necessary medical device and a sharp weapon and went to inspect her new visitor. She found him in the center of the floor, kneeling and looking down. Cringing in anticipation of the beating that he would be expecting to occur following his transport. His clothing was stinking rags, hanging loosely on his sickly body. His hair and beard were long and never washed. The smell of him made breathing unpleasant for her. But she didn't feel contempt or disgust for him. Instead she felt contempt and disgust for her own people. It was Klingons who had caused this once dignified, high ranking Starfleet officer to become this offensive creature kneeling on the floor. Klingons were destroyers of all that was good and admirable. Wherever they went and whatever they touched was defiled. This prisoner crouching before her was just another example of the truth of the Klingon species. But she knew that this prisoner could not know her true thoughts or intentions. To him she would be just another savage Klingon. Perhaps his executioner. He may try to defend himself. For her own safety she would have to treat him as a dangerous enemy. She held out her weapon for him to see, and then she forcefully spoke to him. "Prisoner, look at me." He slowly turned his head to look at her. Good, she thought. He is well trained and obedient. "What is your name and Starfleet rank?" The prisoner murmured some words but she could not understand him. It did not matter. She was not there to converse. "Prisoner. You will bathe yourself in the sanitation facility over there." She pointed at an alcove and the prisoner vaguely looked up at it. "You will cut your hair and remove your beard. You will put on the clothing that I will supply to you. If you lack the energy to do this you will eat the food that I will supply first until you can acquire the necessary energy to clean yourself. Is this clear?" The prisoner shook his head slowly in agreement. "If you do this you may sleep in a soft bed until you have recovered better health. After doing these things you will be released to the Federation." This time the prisoner looked up at her with more energy. She wondered if he believed what she promised. Probably not. Klingons never released prisoners. She would try to be more convincing. "The war with the Federation ended long ago. Federation prisoners have been illegally kept when they should have been released. This has caused some ill feeling between the Federation and the Klingons. As a gesture of good will we shall release you to them. But we need you to be clean and healthy before we can do this. So do as I say and you will be given over to the Federation very soon." The prisoner made no new indications of his belief or otherwise regarding her words. He just continued to nod and occasionally glance in her direction. Now she would complete the part of her plan that she had needed the prisoner for. "I will extract some of your blood. We must ensure that you have acquired no diseases from your time in our custody. If you have such diseases we will cure them before your release. Is this clear?" The prisoner nodded. L'Rell held out her medical device and approached him. He flinched as she pressed it to his arm and the blood was extracted. "Good. You have done well. Now I will supply what you need and then I will leave you to complete the tasks. You may sleep in the bed when you are finished eating and cleaning yourself. Are these things all clear to you?" The prisoner mumbled and nodded. L'Rell replicated the food and clothing he needed and then left the room. She could now forget about him for a time. She had what she needed and if he became too much trouble for her when he was healthier and stronger it was of no great concern. She would send him back to his prison. Or kill him. She could allow nothing, not even the life of a Starfleet officer, to threaten the success of her mission. She still had much to do before her final departure from the Command Center, so she hurriedly returned to her desk. She sat down and picked up the metal container. Her first duty was to insert the blood of the human prisoner into the metal container. The virus in the container would then encode the Human DNA that was in the prisoners blood into its own genome. In this way it would become a virus capable of infecting Klingons with Human DNA. And then, after she had released the virus and most Klingons had become infected, their Klingon genome would gradually be permanently resequenced. For the better, she hoped. She pushed the medical device containing the Human blood into a slot on the container and pressed the activation panel just below the slot. She heard a soft hum as the transfer occurred, and then she put the container back onto the desk. This first, and perhaps most important, duty was now almost complete. Her next duty was to schedule the time for the broadcasting of her message to the people of Qo'nos. She had recorded it long ago. When she had returned to Qo'nos as leader of the Klingon Empire it was only a short period of time before her people displayed to her a progression of their failures. So she had come to expect that at some time she would have to broadcast such a message and wisely she had prepared the message in advance. Now the time for the message to be delivered had come. She got up and walked over to the console where the message was stored. She called up the transcript of the message and read it one more time, wondering if she should make any changes to the broadcast before it was delivered to the people. In her address to the Klingons she had informed them of their dishonor and disgrace. That their constant fighting with each other and with the Federation was shameful. That their vile ways and customs were not behaviors that she could tolerate. The noble ancestors would not have tolerated this behavior. Kahless was enraged. Therefore she would use the detonator that the wisdom and power of Kahless had put into her hands. It was not the Federation that had given her control of the detonator. It was the will of Kahless that had done so. And now, through her, Kahless was passing judgment. She would give the Klingons three days notice to evacuate the planet, and then she would use the detonator to activate the explosive device deep in the heart of Qo'nos. This explosion would commence the process of volcanic destruction and earthquakes that would soon make the planet unfit for all life. Those that did not heed her words would perish in the flames. After she had read the transcript and considered her message, she decided that it said all that needed to be said, in the best way possible, and so she would make no changes. She tapped out commands on her console until she had scheduled the message to be broadcast to the people soon after she had beamed to safety. She quickly walked over to the next console. Her final duty was to arrange for her escape from the Command Center. She, along with the prisoner, if he was not too difficult, would use an encrypted transporter to beam to a cave in the Vonost mountains. She had found a suitably shielded cave where her life signs could not be discovered. After her message of destruction was broadcast, all of Qo'nos would be searching for her and her detonator. So she would have to remain hidden from detection during the three day evacuation period. After these three days had passed she would utilize the detonator. In what she hoped would be her last use of any console, she tapped out the programming for the transporter beam, so that now she needed to say only the one final command and she would be gone from this detestable place forever. Gabriel Lorca lay on the bed and looked at the new prison cell that he was in. It seemed to be a Klingon crew quarters. It was comfortable. There was abundant food for him to eat. He had bathed and cut his hair and shaved off his beard. He had clean new clothes. And apparently, the Klingon had told him, he would soon be returned to the Federation. But such things were impossible to believe. He was surprised that the Klingons thought he was so beaten into despair that he had lost all of his mental reasoning. He had survived the beatings. The torture. The starvation. And he had not broken and given away vital Federation information. Did they now think they could trick him into revealing information with this bizarre charade of good will? And their most stupid mistake was to send a female Klingon wearing a House Mokai insignia to enact this deception. The Mokai, especially the females, were known as the liars and deceivers among the Klingons. They could tell long elaborate stories and make it all sound so believable. Nothing they said could ever be trusted. Did they think he had never learnt about them during his time of capture? Most of his interrogators were Mokai and he knew the insignia very well. But even without this arrogant mistake, he could not be fooled into thinking that the Klingons promise of freedom was true. He had seen all of his fellow prisoners brutally killed with no mercy. No one is ever released from a Klingon prison. But he had discovered during his long capture that his desire for life was strong, even when beaten and starved. He valued every extra day of life. He could only wonder how elaborate this lie would become and for how long it would continue. He would play along without revealing any useful information. It kept him alive, and it was better than starving in a filthy prison cell. L'Rell stood on the outside deck of the Command Center and felt the cool breezes of the high altitude air on her face as it moved across the peaks of the mountains that surrounded her. Some of the mountains in the distance glowed red with the lava that constantly flowed down their sides. Far below she could just see a river winding its way across the plains and towards the great city. This is Qo'nos, she thought to herself. Beautiful in many ways. But ugly and violent also. Too ugly and violent to be allowed to exist in this form anymore. This would all change soon. She would make it change. She thought about what she was about to do. In her hand she held the metal container. Once she opened it and allowed the virus that it contained to be swept away into the atmosphere the process of change would have begun and could never be reversed. The virus would quickly multiply until it was abundant throughout the entire biosphere of Qo'nos. It would survive the devastation of the planet. It could tolerate the hostile conditions from the volcanic ash that would soon fill the atmosphere. Eventually it would make its way to everywhere that Klingons lived. It would travel on the ships that visited the evacuation centres and off world colonies and infect those Klingons also. It would take a few years, but eventually almost all Klingons would be infected. And then, after a few more years, the virus would become inactive as an agent of infection. Those few Klingons not yet infected would never be infected. This meant that some of the Klingon species, in the remote outposts, could remain purely Klingon and the Klingon race would not be entirely lost. She had engineered the virus to have these characteristics. She wondered if she could remain one of the uninfected. As she was engineering the virus she had thought at length about how much Human DNA should be incorporated into the Klingon genome. How Human Klingons should become had been a question of great difficulty to determine. She had decided on twenty percent Human as a good amount. They would still look Klingon, but their behavior would be, she hoped, a little more like Human behavior. That is, if everything she had done worked correctly as planned. In any new experimental procedure there can be unexpected outcomes. Such problems were not a matter of concern to her. Klingons could not continue to exist as they were now and that was all that she cared about.