"Life. Glorious in its many forms. The biological pulse finding its way heroically through the cold manipulation of science." someone said showing in the Medical montage.

"We see a beautiful montage of futuristic medical technology. Through a microscope we see cells multiplying and gene strands exponentially increasing with the vibrancy of exploding flowers. We see laser splicing and biological manipulation on the molecular level."

"Politics... In a cavernous, shadowy chamber. Dark figures lean together and talk seriously. Their hushed, urgent tones denote the gravity of their discussion." they said now showing the Romulan senate chamber.

"We can't make out the words but there is no doubt what they are talking about."

A three year old human boy who stood before them. The boy was alone and frightened, lost in the sweeping grandeur of the massive chamber.

"Labor..." they said in the Reman home world at night now.

On a stark, desert planet with monolithic mountains and harsh crags shooting upward. The only light in this dark netherworld comes from the flames that accompany the hellish mining operations everywhere around us.

The human body gazed over this desolate vista and then looked up for a moment... at the stars.

Then a tall figure led him firmly into one of the mines.

The boy seems to disappear into this flaming crucible.

The sun is setting on the capital city of the great Romulan Star Empire, The imperial monoliths and martial towers of this bustling city glow red as the sun dips below the horizon.

We slowly move down toward the most imposing building of the city. The Romulan Senate chamber.

Senator Tal'aura watched the proceedings with a studied look of bored indifference. She glanced to the familiar Romulan crest that dominates one wall of the chamber: a ferocious bird-of-prey holding two planets, one in either claw.

And then her eyes carefully cross the chamber to the head of the Romulan government, Praetor Hiren was presiding over the Senate from a throne-like chair. He's a capable politician in his 50s.

"...but if we hesitate we'll lose this important source of dilithium." Senator 1 said.

A trade agreement is in the best interests of the Empire.

"Praetor, I recommend we dispatch a diplomatic mission to Celes II to open negotiations." Senator 2 said.

Senator Tal'Aura grunts slightly at the word "negotiations."

Praetor Hiren glances to her.

"Senator Tal'Aura, you disagree with the motion." Praetor said.

"No, sir. I would say negotiation is to be advised. I support all diplomatic overtures. But if you will excuse me, Praetor, I have an appointment with the Tholian ambassador." Tal'Aura said.

The Praetor nodded. Tal'Aura stood and left the chamber but had left something behind on her desk. A small, silver box with unusual etchings on the surface.

"Then I will call for a vote on the motion to open trade negotiations with Celes II..." Praetor said.

The Senator at the desk next to Tal'Aura's glanced over. The silver box was moving.

The Senator watched, amazed, as the box began to slowly fold open. Then 'legs' appeared. The box unfolds like a spider, standing on its legs. Then it was still for a moment. The Senator looked at it, puzzled.

Suddenly a bright beam of green light shot up from the spider, the Senators were stunned as the beam shot to the high domed ceiling of the chamber and then cascades around the interior of the room, enveloping everything in a glowing shroud of green energy. In a way, it was bizarrely beautiful.

And then just as suddenly the light disappeared.

A moment of silence. The Praetor and Senators are baffled.

"Would someone please tell me what that was?" Praetor asked then turned to a guard. "Alert security-"

A plant behind the Praetor began to shrivel.

"-and have them run a-" he continued.

The Praetor stopped suddenly as the flesh began to melt from his face.

Every bit of organic matter in the chamber decaied. Flesh melts from bones while the Senators scream in agony. Every living thing in the chamber was dead within ten seconds.

There was a stunning moment of silence. Then a transporter effect rippled around the spider-weapon. It disappeared.

And the Romulan Senate was no more.

Jean Luc Picard, the most beloved and respected Captain in Starfleet was in Alaska.

His face was resolute and set. Even stern. His white dress uniform was buttoned tightly to the neck.

He looked at everyone evenly and then utters the word that has been the watch cry for his entire life as a Starfleet officer.

"Duty..." he said and let the word resonate and then continued. "A starship captain's life is filled with solemn duty. I have commanded men in battle. I have negotiated peace treaties between implacable enemies. I have represented the Federation in first contact with twenty-seven alien species. But none of this compares to my solemn duty as... Best man."

Uproarious laughter went off at the wedding reception of Will Riker and Deanna Troi.

The Enterprise crew, including Wesley, was gathered with invited guests, some from other Star Trek series. Riker and Deanna sit at the center of a long table.

"Now, I know that on an occasion such as this: it is expected that I be gracious and fulsome with praise on the wonders of this blessed union... But have you two considered what you're doing to? This is all a damned inconvenience..." he said causing laughter from the crowd again. "While you're happily settling in on the Titan, I'll have to train a new first officer; no doubt a stern martinet who'll quote the rule book at me and never... ever... allow me to go on away missions." More laughter went on. "...Then there's the matter of my new counselor. Undoubtedly some soft-spoken, willowy thing who'll be probing into my darkest psyche as she nods her head and coos sympathetically. Isn't that right, Deanna?"

Deanna nodded her head and cooed sympathetically. Hearty, wonderful laughter.

"I notice Dr. Crusher laughing along with the rest of you. As most of you know, the doctor will also soon be leaving the Enterprise, to assume command of Starfleet Medical. Again, I'm forced to ask, Beverly, have you considered what you're doing too little ole' me?! I'll probably get some old battle- axe of a doctor who'll tell me to eat my vegetables and put me on report if I don't show up for my physical on time!"

"It'll serve you right." Beverly said.

Everyone was laughing.

"Really, it's not too late to reconsider. No? Very well then..." He smiled and raises his glass, looked at them deeply. "Will Riker, you have been my trusted right arm for fourteen years; you have helped keep my course true and steady. Deanna Troi, you have been my conscience and best guide, the touchstone to the better parts of myself. You are my family. And in proper maritime tradition I wish you full sails and a clear horizon... My friends, make it so."

Then they all drank and Picard looked at his right still standing.

"And I also have a family member to welcome back home. A family member that had impressed us all and saved us many times for six years, (Wesley turned a little red at that) even when he was on break from the academy you saved us. And just about obsessed with engineering," he said and got everyone from Starfleet to start laughing knowing his engineering history. (Wesley was even redder now) "After nine years he's finally back, Wesley Crusher, welcome back to Starfleet. You became an acting ensign only five months after being on the Enterprise at fifteen. Then became a full ensign for a year at eighteen and is now a lieutenant junior. At least I'll have you to keep me company and annoy us all again. Like I said, welcome back Lieutenant Wesley Howard Crusher."

"Thank you sir. I'll try not to annoy you and hope I don't have to save you that often this time." Wesley said smiling and getting everyone to start laughing.

Later the party guests mingled as a band played. They were at a beautiful open-air pavilion high in the Denali Mountains.

The soaring ranges of Riker's native Alaska can be seen everywhere around us.

Beverly went to Picard.

"Sort of like losing a son and gaining an empath, isn't it?" she said playfully.

"You're being a good help."

"If you start tearing up I promise to beam you out. Level one medical emergency. There's no crying in Starfleet."

Then Wesley came smiling in his Starfleet suit.

"Mom, Captain." Wesley said.

"Hello, Wesley," Picard said easily. "It's good to see you back in uniform."

"Suits him, doesn't it?" Beverly said.

He returned Wesley's grin.

"Are you looking forward to serving on the Enterprise again?"

"Very much, I've missed everyone. It's going to feel weird not having mom, Com- Captain Riker and Councilor Troi with us though." He stopped abruptly, his attention seized by the appearance of a young woman who waved in his direction. "Oh, excuse me. See you later, Mom."

Then Picard and Beverly watched while Wesley talked to the person that called him and headed off toward Riker and Deanna.

Meanwhile, Geordi sat with his girlfriend.

"I've never seen your Captain so nostalgic. Maybe he's getting soft in his old age." Leah said.

He started laughing.

"Not likely. After we installed the new Series Four replicators, he tried to order his usual tea and there was a glitch. Had us remove the whole bunch of them and put the old ones back in."

"There! Nostalgic about old replicators."

"He just likes things the way he likes them..." Then he looked at her and smiled. "Of course, so do I."

He kissed her gently as Worf came to them and Worf was still suffering a bit from the bachelor party. He sat down beside them.

"Romulan ale should be illegal." he said.

"It is, old chum." Geordi said.

"Then it should be more illegal."

Then he groaned and rested his head on the table, acting like he's going to heave.

Meanwhile, Riker and Deanna were talking to Picard and Beverly.

"Really, Captain, it was a lovely toast." she said.

"The least I could do for you, Deanna. Besides, you know me... I'm a talking head."

"And you needn't worry. I'll brief your new counselor on everything she needs to know."

"The hell you will. You know too much about me as it is. Now you promised there are no speeches during the ceremony on Betazed."

"No, no speeches. No clothes either." Riker said and winked mischievously.

Picard looked at him while Deanna laughed.

Then the band stopped playing and they all turned while Data stood with the band.

"Ladies and Gentlemen and invited Tran gendered species... In my study of Terran and Betazoid conjugal rites I have discovered it is traditional to present the "happy couple" with a gift. Given Commander Riker's affection for archaic musical forms I have elected to present the following as my gift in honor of their conjugation." he said.

Riker shot an amused glance to Deanna.

Data turned to the band leader.

"If you please, Mister Band Leader, a-one and a-two and..." he continued.

Then the band launched into a jaunty, swing version of the Irving Berlin standard "Blue Skies."

"Blue skies, smiling at me, Nothing but blue skies do I see. Blue birds, singing a song, Nothing but blue birds all day long. Never saw the sun shining so bright, Never saw things going so right..." he sang.

The crowd was appreciative and loved the song. Except Worf, who momentarily raised his head from the table and groaned.

"Ugghhh... Irving Berlin." he said and his head thumps down again, still feeling sick.

Meanwhile, Riker was anxious as a kid to join the band:

"All right, go ahead." Deanna said smiling.

Riker eagerly joined the band then grabbed the trombone and started jamming with the orchestra.

"May I have this dance?" Picard said to her.

"With pleasure, Captain." she said.

Meanwhile, Geordi lead Leah to the dance floor as well and Beverly went to Worf.

"Commander Worf... Do Klingons swing?" she asked.

"I am not a swinger. I am unwell." he said.

"Don't worry, I'm a doctor." she said then pulled him to the dance floor. "I'm so glad you made it back to the Enterprise before I left."

"I was not suited for the life of a... diplomat."

"Who'd have guessed?" she asked wry.

While they danced Picard and Deanna swept past them.

Data continued to sing while the crew danced a joyous celebration of these people, this family. A family they love.