Picard re-materialized the bridge and saw the brilliant flash from the explosion through the gaping hole in the front of the bridge.
Deanna sat at helm, her face a mask of pain. Geordi stood on the upper rear deck, head down.
A long beat as Picard just stood on his ruined bridge, the thousand-yard stare of a combat veteran in his eyes.
Riker emerged from the turbolift and went to Picard.
"Sir?" he said.
Picard didn't answer, he just stared forward and Deanna went to Riker.
"Data." she said.
Riker looked toward the glowing debris field in the distance and put an arm around her.
They all stood in silence.
"Sir, we're being hailed." Wesley said.
"On screen..." Picard said then remembered there was no longer a view screen. "...Open a channel."
"This is Commander Donatra of the Valdore. We're dispatching shuttles with medical personnel and supplies." Donatra said.
"Thank you, Commander." Then the transmission ended. "Geordi... prepare the shuttlebay for arrivals. They don't know our procedures so just... open the doors."
"I'll take care of it, sir."
"Number One. You have the bridge."
Then he turned and heads toward his Ready Room.
The others watch him go with great sadness.
When the Ready Room doors closed behind Picard, Deanna finally allowed herself to cry and Riker held her close.
Hours later in the crew loungehe senior crew is solemnly gathered in the shattered remains of the crew lounge. Picard, Riker, Deanna, Beverly, Worf, Geordi and Wesley were wearing their dress uniforms.
Picard went to each of them and carried a small, metal box.
They each took something from the box then Picard poured six glasses of his precious Chateau Picard and they each took a glass.
Picard raised his glass.
"To absent friends... to family."
They toasted Data.
In his cabin Picard was sitting at his desk, speaking quietly to someone.
"I don't know if all this has made sense to you, but I wanted you to know what kind of man he was. In his quest to be more like us, he helped show us what it means to be human." he said.
Re-activated B-9 was sitting across from him.
"My brother was not a human." he said.
"No, he wasn't... But his wonder and his curiosity about every facet of human life helped all of us see the best parts of ourselves. He embraced change... because he always wanted to be more than he was."
"I do not understand."
"Well, I hope someday you will."
Worf interrupted on comm:
"Captain, the Hemingway has arrived to tow us to spacedock."
"On my way. Please notify Commander Riker..." he said then stood and prepared to go. "...We'll talk later?"
The B-9 didn't respond and was looking rather blankly at the padd on Picard's desk.
Picard began to leave when a sound stopped him... humming. He turned back to the B-9.
The B-9 was still looking blankly at the padd... but he's humming lightly to himself... then he begins to sing, very softly...
"Blue skies, smiling at me, Nothing but blue skies do I see." he said.
Then he was silent as Picard watched him for a moment; great emotion playing over his features, and then left.
Later that night Picard and Riker were in the Enterprise corridor heading toward a turbolift making their way past the debris littering the corridor.
Riker had understood that Wesley was used to being on the Enterprise and remembering what happened.
"I'm sorry you won't be here for the re-fit, but I know the Titan needs you immediately." Picard said.
Riker didn't respond.
Picard stopped and looked at Riker deeply.
"The Titan's a fine ship, Will. And she's getting a captain worthy of her." he said.
"She's the most beautiful ship I've ever seen." Riker said then touched a wall of the corridor. "...But she's not the Enterprise."
"I promise you in time, she'll become your home... If I could offer you one piece of advice?"
"When your first officer insists that you can't go on away missions... Ignore him."
"I intend to."
"Serving with you has been an honor." he continued with difficulty.
"The honor was mine. Captain Riker."
A few weeks later the Enterprise was enclosed in the great womb of a spacedock. The ship being rebuilt.
In the enterprise bridge a fresh-faced young officer, COMMANDER MARTIN MADDEN, paces. nervously outside Picard's Ready Room. Bracing himself before entering.
Behind him was technicians working everywhere around the bridge, trying to rebuild it. Worf talking to a young officer at tactical and Geordi working at the engineering station. New command chairs were being installed.
But the gaping hole at the front of the bridge hasn't been repaired yet.
A young Andorian woman, the new OPS officer smiled at Madden's nervousness. Her antennae twitch slightly in amusement. He saw her.
"So... what's the old man like?" he asked.
"Why don't you go in and find out?"
Commander Madden prepared himself.
In the enterprise ready room Picard was talking to Beverly on view screen. She was in her new office at Starfleet Medical.
"You can't imagine them, Jean Luc. They're kids! All with advance degrees in xenobiology and out to conquer every disease in the quadrant." she said on view screen.
"Reminds me of a young doctor I used to know..." he said smiling.
"They're running me ragged. Nothing but questions day and night... I love it! Come to dinner and I'll tell you all about it. There's a Bajoran band at the officer's mess."
"Not tonight, I have work here."
"Soon then. I'll save the last dance for you."
Commander Madden came quickly not using the door chime causing Picard to be surprised.
"Commander Martin Madden reporting for duty, sir." he said.
Picard stood then they shake hands as:
"Welcome aboard, Commander. I hope, your transfer didn't come as too much of a surprise." Picard said.
"I was... honored, sir." Madden said.
"I needed you immediately to help oversee the re-fit..." Picard said gathering up some padds from his desk. "...Your service record on the Talos is exemplary, but there are a few things I would like to discuss with you regarding my requirements for a First Officer. Shall we say dinner in my quarters at 1900 hours?"
"Very good, sir."
"Commander, I don't know how they did it on the Talos, but we have door chimes on the Enterprise. We use them." Picard said heading toward the door carrying a few padds.
"Yes, sir. Sorry, sir."
Picard went to the bridge with Madden following.
In the Enterprise bridge they emerged to the bridge as Worf was arguing Wesley busy installing Picard's new high-tech command chair.
"You don't understand the Captain, there should be no changes until we have discussed the modifications with him."
Wesley rolled his eyes when Picard got to them.
"What's this?" Picard asked.
"Your new chair, sir." Worf said grumbling.
"It's the Mark Seven, Captain. State-of-the-art ergonomics... command interfaces with-" Wesley said but was interrupted.
"I told him you're comfortable with your old chair."
"Let's give it a try. You must remember Lieutenant Crusher and his ideas."
He settled into his new command chair. Looks around for a beat at his new bridge crew. Fresh-faced kids. A new generation to teach and nurture. He smiles.
Worf and Geordi exchange a look, surprised and remembered the same thing.
'Then again, it's Wesley.'
"Try that button, sir." Wesley said smiling and pointing.
Picard presses a button on the chair and - zip - metal restraints fly into position around his waist and shoulders. Seatbelts! Picard was surprised then smiled.
"It's about time." he said then pressed the button again and the restraints zip back into the body of the chair delighted then turned to Madden. "Commander, please sit down..."
Madden sot in the First Officer's chair, Picard shared a padd with him.
"...We've received our first assignment. We're going to be exploring the Denab system. It should be exciting. It's a place... where no one has gone before." Picard continued.
Through the hole in the hull of enterprise we see Picard talking to Madden. Picard at work, at peace. Where he is meant to be.
We slowly pull back from Picard and the Enterprise. As we hear the B-9's soft tones. Gentle. Hopeful.
"Never saw the sun shining so bright, Never saw things going so right. Noticing the days hurrying by, When you're in love, my how they fly. Blue days, all of them gone, Nothing but blue skies from now on." B-9 said.
Then they revolved away from the Enterprise and Earth toward the stars and went forward into the cosmos. Wesley was happy he was back on the Enterprise and looked forward to his future.