Disclaimer: Star Trek is not mine. Q is not mine. Drat.

Chapter One

"I knew it was you!" announced the woman who had suddenly come up from behind the counter.

I was a little startled. I'd thought we were alone. Of course, I couldn't let Picard know that. "You!" My voice may have betrayed me a little there. "Picard, if you had half the sense you pretend to have, you'd get her off your ship immediately. And if you wish, I'd be more than pleased to expedite her departure." I raised a hand.

Too late. She immediately raised hers in defense. Lesson number one: act first, gloat later. Not doing so was more or less why I had to leave the Q continuum.

"You know him?" the Captain asked her. As if it wasn't obvious.

"We have had some dealings," she replied in her normal, calm, even voice.

"Those dealings were two centuries ago," I objected. "This creature is not what she appears to be. She's an imp, and where she goes, trouble always follows."

"You're speaking of yourself, Q, not Guinan." So much for my amazing comeback.

"Guinan?" I tried. "Is that your name now?"

"Guinan is not the issue here; you are!" The one thing that really gets on my nerves about the Captain - other than that he's a stubborn, arrogant, by-the-book, possessive-of-his-ship non-entity - is that he has no patience.

"I agree, Captain. Enough about this creature. She's diverting us from the purpose of my being here." 'And the purpose of my kidnapping you and taking you out into the ends of the galaxy in a shuttlecraft,' I added to myself.

"Which is?" asked a voice I recognized immediately.

"Ah, the redoubtable Commander Riker!" I announced with a grin. "And Micro-Brain! Growl for me, let me know you still care." He almost did, too. It was absolutely hilarious. In fact, I had this incredible urge to materialize a pail of water directly over his head and drench him, but I didn't think that would help my request. Save that prank for later. Instead, might as well tell them the truth. "My purpose is to join you."

"To join us as what?" Riker asked. I guess the question made sense to him; I'd previously tried to win command of the Enterprise in a bet with her Captain.

"As a member of the crew, willing and able, ready to serve. This ship is already home for the indigent, the unwanted, the unworthy. Why not for a homeless entity?" Looking back, insulting the ship might not have been the best idea. Picard takes things like that rather personally.

"Homeless?" Riker asked.


"The other members of the Q continuum kicked you out."

"Not all Q are alike. Some are almost respectable."

"Ready and willing? Able to serve?" I could tell he was actually considering it. That was more than I'd originally hoped for. "What would you do? Hmm? Would you start as an ordinary crewman? What task is too menial for an entity?"

"Sir, do you mock me?" Useless question; I knew he was.

"Not at all; that's the last thing I would do." I'm often surprised by how easily humans lie. "You, by definition, are part of our charter; our mission is to seek out new and different life-forms, and you certainly qualify as one of the most unique I've ever encountered. To learn about you is frankly provoggative. But you're next of kin to chaos."

"Captain, at least allow me to present my argument." It was a shot in the dark. I wouldn't have been surprised if he'd said no. But he dismissed the Klingon and looked at me expectantly. I explained. "After our last encounter, I was asked to leave the Q continuum." That was putting it mildly. "Since then, I've been wandering vaguely, bored, really, my existence without purpose. Then I remembered all the good times I had here."

No one present really believed I'd been wandering vaguely. No doubt the others thought I was planning something. Truth be told, I was recovering. I hadn't been sent away from the Q continuum, as Riker guessed. I'd escaped.

"The good times? The first time we met, you put us on trial for the crimes of humanity," Riker objected.

"For which you were exonerated." I was getting frustrated. Hadn't I already explained this to him?

"The next time we saw you, you asked me to join the Q continuum!"

"A big mistake that you didn't accept my offer." I think his mistake hurt me more than him, though. "More and more, I realize that here, here is where I want to be. Now, I neither expect nor require any special treatment, and, if necessary, although I can't imagine why, I will renounce my powers and become as weak and incompetent as all of you."

Guinan snorted. It would've been funny if I hadn't been focusing so hard on Picard. "No," he finally said.

"No?" I wasn't as surprised as I sounded. "Oh, captain, in fairness, let me try; I deserve at least that much."

Riker got all upset about my kidnapping Picard. "I add a little excitement, a little spice to your lives, and all you do is complain," I insisted. "Think, Picard, think of the possibilities."

"Simply speaking, we don't trust you."

Anyone would've known that. Picard doesn't trust anybody. "Oh," I said. I'd told myself not to get my hopes up. Why hadn't I listened? "Well, you may not trust me, but you do need me. You're not prepared for what awaits you."

"How can we be prepared for that which we do not know? But I do know that we are ready to encounter it.

Baloney. He wasn't ready at all. And I knew it. "Really?"

"Yes, absolutely; that's why we're out here."

"Oh, the arrogance." I was amused now. Picard's funny when he's mad. "They don't have a clue as to what's out here."

"They will learn, adapt; that is their greatest advantage," Guinan insisted, as if we hadn't already figured that out. That was the whole reason we'd wanted Riker to become one of us in the first place.

"They're moving faster than expected, further than they should."

"By whose calculations?" the Captain demanded.

"You judge yourselves against the pitiful adversaries you've encountered so far? The Klingons, the Romulans? They're nothing compared to what's waiting. Picard, you are about to move into areas of the galaxy with wonders beyond your imagining, and terrors to freeze your soul. I offer myself as a guide, only to be rejected out of hand."

It was my last try. If he wouldn't listen to that, he wouldn't listen at all.

"We'll just have to do the best we can without you," Riker said.

"What justifies that smugness?"

"No, not smugness, not arrogance," Picard insisted. "We are resolute, we are determined, but . . . . maybe we could use your help."

Yeah! Q gets his chance! But what will he do with it?

Also, I need a little help. I do not watch Star Trek on a regular basis; we get two channels, neither of which shows Star Trek. My grandparents tape them, but they're all out of order. Which episode normally comes after this one?