Coda: Two months later…

Beverly Crusher MD placed her commbadge on top of her uniform and sealed the suitcase over the top of the small pile of items with no feeling of regret.

Beside the bed in her quarters aboard the Enterprise there was a small bedside table. On that table were a small vase and a piece of paper. The paper was a note from the governor of the small colony of Caldos, granting her permission to settle. She intended to set up a home there, following in the footsteps of many generations of her mother's family.

She had informed all of her friends the week before she had handed in her resignation. None of them were truly shocked, but there was some surprise. But, in a move typical of his generosity, Riker had bullied the new C in C of Starfleet into allowing the Enterprise to ferry Beverly to her new home. At this precise moment, the new regime at Starfleet was giving the new captain of the Enterprise almost anything he wanted.

Beverly placed the suitcase on the deck by her bed and then shivered as she felt a chill run through her without warning. She looked around, puzzled as to how that might have happened, and then realised –

The empty vase had a flower in it.

Slowly, she moved across to the bedside table and picked the flower carefully from the vase. A beautifully delicate purple orchid had been placed there by an unseen hand, and for a moment, Crusher thought she heard a voice on the cusp of hearing.

Then silence again.

But she was not easily fooled. She turned and made for the door.

Stood in a corridor two decks below Beverly's quarters, William Riker's hand unconsciously strayed again to his collar, whereupon he felt the four pips of captaincy, one slightly shinier than the others.

Troi slapped his hand gently. 'Will, please stop doing that.'

'Sorry,' he muttered guiltily. 'It just still feels… odd.'

Deanna gave him a slightly worried look, but hid it under the mask of her love for him.

A few days after the funeral, Will had been called in to see Admiral Rynar for a short discussion. At that discussion, he had been told that the Titan was to be offered to someone else and that Riker would be assigned command of the Enterprise when she was ready to cruise again.

After that conversation, Troi had found him in his quarters, staring quietly at the fourth pip which had been awarded to him as the newest captain in the fleet. When she had asked him what was wrong, he had not answered, but had resumed a mask which he had worn ever since. It was a mask that hid his true feelings from her and those around him and, she suspected, also from Riker himself.

Suddenly, Riker found himself shivering as he felt a chill breeze sweep around him. Troi saw this. 'Will, are you okay?'

Riker hesitated, but before he found time to answer, he suddenly realised that there was a padd lying on the deck before him. He bent down slowly to pick it up. Behind him, Troi looked at what was written on it and gasped.

At that moment, Beverly came hurrying down the corridor to them. 'Will!'

They turned, noting the orchid which Beverly carried with some surprise. 'What's that?' asked Riker.

'It was in my room,' she replied. 'I don't know how it got there.'

Riker's commbadge bleeped. 'Data to Riker.'

'Riker here.'

'Captain, I think you had better come to –'

'Ten-Forward?' said Riker, looking at the padd.

There was a pause. 'That's right, sir.'

'I'll be there immediately,' replied Riker.

They arrived in Ten-Forward to find Data, who wore command red for the first time, La Forge and Hedly all there before them. But Riker's gaze wasn't taken up by the friends saw before him, but by what they were all staring at through the windows before them. Silently, the trio joined their friends looking out at the stars.

To their eyes only, it was as if a giant door had opened in the cosmos, connecting them, for a brief second, with another world entirely.

From behind that door, they heard a familiar voice, one they had heard many times, yet subtly different. It spoke to them all in different words, but the tone was the same; reassuring, compassionate, caring. The voice was warm and soft in their minds, yet intense and powerful, firing them all with the knowledge of whose mind was behind what they heard.

And it gave them all the same message. 'Go forward, don't look back. Believe in yourselves, for I always believed in you. Make your futures brighter without me, rather than looking back to a past which will always seem more golden with the passing of the years. Be well, my friends. Farewell.'

The voice fell silent. The stars reappeared once more.

No-one spoke. Then, slowly, carefully, Beverly placed her hand upon the window and whispered, 'Farewell, Jean-Luc.'

'That was the captain,' said Data, his voice soft.

Troi nodded, tearfully. The emotion around her had become to strong for her to block out. She felt La Forge's confusion, but also his acceptance. She felt Hedly's strong confidence become even greater and more solid. She felt Data's awe of what he had experienced. She felt the frost melting from around Beverly's heart, as she contemplated what she had been told and finally began to acknowledge that she would be able to move on.

She looked at Riker. For a moment, he stared out at the stars, and then he turned to his officers and for the first time, Troi saw the confidence he had once held returning to him, as if a great weight had been lifted from his shoulders. He then smiled a familiar smile which warmed Troi's heart beyond her ability to speak.

When he spoke, Riker's voice was warm, friendly, but also held the command tone which they had heard many times in his voice before. It caught them, held them and confirmed that he was now ready to take command. 'My friends, we have a voyage to make.'

Thus it was that the senior crew emerged onto the bridge of the Enterprise. Hedly made straight for her console, while Geordi made for the aft consoles. Beverly also followed, standing to one side as the crew prepared the ship to get underway.

Troi and Data went to their chairs either side of Riker, who paused for a moment, staring at the centre chair of command. Troi heard him whisper, 'Goodbye, Jean-Luc.'

He sat in the chair, and for the first time felt truly at home there. 'Status report, Mr Truper.'

'All systems are fully functional, captain,' replied the helmsman. 'Spacedock control has given us full clearance.'

'Warp engines are online and ready for your command,' added Geordi.

Riker nodded. 'Clear all moorings, ready for departure.'

'Aye, sir, moorings cleared,' replied Truper.

Riker paused, before giving the order. He glanced at Data. 'Is the crew ready, Number One?'

Data jumped slightly at the reference, but then smiled back at Riker. 'We're all ready, Captain.'

Captain Riker smiled and turned his eyes to the screen. 'Let's see what's out there.'

The sleek dark hull of the Enterprise broke from her confinement within the giant Spacedock orbiting Earth and plunged forward into the inky deeps of space. For a moment, she seemed to gather herself, holding herself steady for the final moment.

Her warp engines blazed.

Space changed around her.

The USS Enterprise leapt forward in a blaze of light, vanishing beyond sight and beyond sound, leaving everything else in her wake.

Captain's Log: Stardate 55213.8 – Space, the final frontier. These are the voyages of the starship Enterprise. Her ongoing mission – to explore strange new worlds; to seek out new life and new civilisations. To boldly go where no one has gone before!

The End of the Third Book of the Final Reckoning

The End of the Final Reckoning

NB - I began writing Ultimate Vision (then called The Final Reckoning) as a small contest between friends at school, who challenged me to see how long a story I could write. I was 16 at the time and the first draft came in at around 20,000 words.

Since then this tale has, quite literally, grown in the telling. The first inspiration for The Woman Unknown came about half-way through my slightly feverish rewrite of Ultimate Vision, as I insanely decided to add a second part onto the story. My idea for Focal Point came as I finished the first draft of The Woman Unknown, driving me onwards to finish the trilogy.

The initial ideas, as with so many of these things, came strongly after the release of Star Trek: First Contact, which can be seen at the point in which Ultimate Vision begins. Since then, the changes to the Star Trek universe have come thick and fast with the endings of DS9, Voyager, and then the releases of Insurrection, Enterprise and Nemesis. I have decided, in completing Focal Point (which I started first, so nyah) to ignore completely the events of Nemesis and carry on and hold true to the existing ideas and concepts I kept in my head. Thus the ending of Focal Point was the same as I originally imagined when I first plotted it out in 2000, using First Contact as my lode stone.

I feel I have to apologise to those of you I kept on a massive cliff-hanger for the best part of a year, without updating. Chiefly, this was due to significant changes in my personal life, such as my marriage. I hope that I have been able to conclude the story in a manner which you believe to be in keeping with what I had already written.

Thanks for reading this and sharing this experience with me. It has been, in many literal respects, the time of my life!

Ben Pieper, Yorkshire, United Kingdom
18 February 2007