Picard was in his ready room reading a book on his tan couch. A generally entertaining and thrilling novel that had interesting characters featuring a mystery. There was a sudden but random headache in his head. Picard lowered his novel to the side rubbing his forehead. He briefly closed his eyes and opened them. When Picard opened them, he was somewhere else.
Where the hell was he?
"Hey Jean-Luc!" Came the voice of a friend he knew long ago.
A friend who had died years ago.
"Yes?" Picard said, turning himself toward the direction of his friend.
He was in the lounging area of the Stargazer.
This was probably in the time he had gray hair.
"I heard you won poker against Jacob." Jack said.
Since when did he play poker?
"Jack, I don't play poker." Picard said.
"Jacob don't lie about poker," Jack said. "I challenge you to a poker match."
He had that head ache again.
Picard rubbed the side of his head closing his eyes.
"Jean-Luc?" Came the most familiar voice that he-knew-at-the-time-was-not-dead-but-technically-he-didn't-exist-anyway-but-he-is-still-alive.
Picard opened his eyes to see Q leaning against a rail with his arms folded pressed against it and his head turned toward the young cadet. He was a cadet. He was a young man with hair. Hair. Why, it seemed like Picard went backward in time. Picard looked down to see his uniform is indeed a cadet uniform. Picard looked up in the direction of Q.
"Why are you here so late at night?" Q asked.
Picard saw there is not a star in the sky and there is not a moon in sight.
"I. . . " Picard couldn't find the words. "I just found myself here."
Q straighten up leaning away from the rail.
"Picard, you are the last man on Earth and you just happened to find me," Q said. "Why?"
Picard was puzzled.
"I don't know . . ." Then he recalled seeing his dead friend in the flesh. "Q. . . Are you dying?"
"No!" Q said. "I am forever. I cannot die. What makes you think that?"
"I just saw my dead friend talking to me about poker," Picard said. "And what about the universe ending?"
Q was older than Picard had last seen him.
His hair had grown gray at the sides.
"Someone made a hole," Q said. "And I have been asking around lately about the side effects and what caused it." His voice became lowered. "It only came to my attention when Data was taken through and you were panicking, mostly hysterical, about the loss of someone no one ever remembered except for you. I investigated. I found out there was a explosion time on this date in history. August 1st, 2323 at 12:01 PM."
"And what happened when you came back?" Picard asked.
"You were gone and so was the Enterprise," Q said. "So was the Q continuum. So was . . .My family."
"I did not realize you had a family." Picard said, in a low voice.
Q sighed briefly closing his eyes.
"I had." Q said.
"I am so sorry." Picard said.
"Enough with your self pity," Q said, opening his eyes catching the gaze of the young cadet. "What year was it to you last?"
"2370." Picard said.
"It hasn't happened yet, Jean-Luc," Q said. "Me becoming a family man. Everyone has gone through the hole. The entire Continuum believed that going through the hole would fix it all and I. . . stepped aside. . . as usual. . . and just watched them all go!" He pointed to a burning light in the sky. "I. . .In there."
Picard stepped forward.
"You are the last of your kind," Picard said. "So vulnerable when you can do anything."
"I can't," Q said. "It feeds off my energy." He lowered his hand. "I have to go in before the sun is taken."
"Do you hear what you are saying Q?" Picard asked. "The Q I know wouldn't just give up that easily!"
"If I go in then your entire crew may be alive, so would Ensign Carly!" Q said. "They will ALL come back!"
"I would be dead if you go in, Q!" Picard said.
"How would you know that you die in the repaired timeline?" Q asked.
"I have known for awhile you repaired my heart after bringing the past to life and showing what I could have been." Picard admitted.
"Picard . . ." Q said.
"And you are not going to go in like that!" Picard said. "For all I know there is no way to bring them back. The day you go in is the day I'll go in and never come back out!" He sounded so determined in his voice. The valor in his voice sounded rather infectious. "Perhaps you expected this and told Ensign Carly as a child to tell me to remember something. Something that could be of some use to you?"
"Picard. . . I can't stop it." Q said.
"You are a Q. I seen you brought the dead back to life. Nothing ever stopped you then." Picard said.
Q put his hands on Picard's shoulders.
"If you were a Q and very alone in your darkest time," Q said. "Without anyone . . . Would you take the last resort to save the people you can?"
"You are not alone, now." Picard said.
Q sighed but then he had a smile as he took his hands off Picard's shoulder.
"You are right. . . " Q said.
"That is a first hearing it from you." Picard said.
The smile had faded off Q' s face.
"I have to fix it. . ." Q said. "And if you rather go in first then be my guest! Because thankfully there is another universe where this crack in the wall scenario has happened before and the Doctor has ever so graciously allowed me to use the box."
"The. .. Doctor?" Picard repeated, confused.
"It is called the Pandora," Q said. "I wasn't going to step in like you were thinking. . . I was thinking more of a different approach."
Lie, Q thought, I was going to walk in until Jean-Luc approached me. I just thought of this.
"And what does this Pandora do?" Picard asked.
"It flies into the storm!" Q said. "Right into the heart of it all. I don't know who is making the explosion or what . . . But it must be a alternate version of those timelords." Q grumbled to himself about them taking a step aside from Picard. "If you'll like to see the universe be rebooted for a second time . . ." Q held out his hand. "Take my hand."
As soon as Picard took Q's hand, they were off.