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The Last Star Trek: Chapter Twenty-Seven - All Is Revealed

...Q glared, and raised his hand again, and the light grew once more. McCoy groaned, and tried to stand, but fell to the floor. He looked up at Q, and the light seemed to be growing; the pain in his chest faded, and still the light grew in intensity. I’m dying, he thought. This is it, the old final frontier. Then he saw that Q had lowered his hand; the light, however, continued to increase in intensity, while the pain in his chest abated, then disappeared altogether. The light, unearthly and translucent, shimmered in several distinct shapes...

Something very strange is happening. Something stranger than McCoy has encountered in all his starship travels.

Brian William Neal's thrilling story, The Last Star Trek, produces even bigger surprises as it nears its conclusion.

McCoy entered sick bay in response to the summons he had received from the Challenger’s chief medical officer. Probably more damned tests, he thought irritably. No matter how much I tell them that I feel fine, they want to do more tests. The fact that the ship’s medical staff were taking the same action he himself would take did not enter McCoy’s reasoning.

McCoy looked around the familiar room; because the Challenger was an M-Class Cruiser, identical in type and configuration to the Enterprise, its sick bay was exactly the same as that which he had presided over for so many years aboard his old ship. Thinking that way brought on the old feelings again, feelings that McCoy knew would take him a long time to get over, if he ever got over them at all. Quickly, he composed himself as a medical officer entered the room.

The man was someone he had not seen before, and McCoy looked at him with a mild curiosity. He was a tall man; taller than McCoy, about Spock’s height, he thought, but more solidly built. He wore the standard white smock over a Star Fleet uniform with Commander’s insignia, and smiled as he approached.

“Captain McCoy, I presume,” he said, extending his hand. “How very nice to meet you at last.”

McCoy took the offered hand, grimacing slightly at the other’s use of his rank rather than his title, and said, “I thought I had met all the medical personnel on this ship, but I don’t think I know you.”

The man smiled again, a confident smile. Almost, it seemed to McCoy, with a hint of knowingness. He pondered this for a moment, and felt a strange sense of disquiet. Star Fleet medical people were especially trained to put patients at their ease - McCoy should know, since he had done it himself for twenty-seven years. The man spoke again, ignoring McCoy’s unasked question as to his identity.

“I have been waiting for a very long time to meet you, Doctor. I have followed your career with great interest; yours, and those of the rest of your crew. We have a great deal in common, you and I. You can’t know what a pleasure it is to finally meet you, face to face, so to speak. Your exploits, and those of your crew, have been a subject of some interest to me for quite a while now.”

McCoy looked more closely at the man, puzzled by his strange manner. Typically, he cut straight to the point. “Who the hell are you?” he asked, a little of his old belligerence showing through. “Where’s Doctor Jameson?”

The man did not reply, but stood there smiling. Or rather, McCoy thought as he studied him more closely, smirking would be a more accurate description. “What the hell is going on here?” he demanded. “You’re not one of this crew. Who are you, and what are you doing here?”

The man smirked more openly, a supercilious expression on his face. Then he spoke again.

“You couldn’t begin to imagine who or what I am, Doctor. However, for the purposes of this meeting, you may call me…. Q.”

*

McCoy stared at the man. “Q?” he asked, belligerently. “What the hell kind of name is that?” When the man didn’t reply, McCoy turned and headed for the door. “I’ve had enough of this nonsense,” he said. “We’ll see if Captain McMasters finds you as humorous as you obviously find yourself.”

He reached the door, it slid aside, and McCoy stopped just in time to prevent himself from falling into the gaping abyss before him. Beyond the doorway, instead of the corridor of the ship, was only space, the stars glittering against the blackness. Slowly, he backed away, back into the room, then turned and faced the man once more.

“Who are you?” he asked again.

The man, whose medical smock had now been miraculously replaced by a Star Fleet captain’s uniform, sat in the chair behind the desk and put his feet up, the very picture of comfort and ease. “Sit down, doctor,” he said, indicating the other chair. “Let me tell you a tale.”

McCoy took the offered seat as the man, or whatever he was, continued. “You see, as I said, I have been watching you and your little group for some time now. Naturally, your puny exploits themselves did not interest me, but the way that you always seemed to escape from, shall we say, sticky situations did. You reminded me of another group of humans that I have, on occasion, encountered. You wouldn’t know them,” he smirked. “After your time.

“But your group, and especially your leader, Captain Kirk, seemed to have more than their share of that elusive commodity: luck. Take your latest exploit, for example. You never should have escaped from those creatures.” He smirked again. “Loathsome, weren’t they? I do love a good monster. Anyway, it was only by sheer luck that you defeated them, and got away, and…”

“Luck?” said McCoy. “I don’t suppose you considered that it might have been due to something that we did? Something right?”

Q sneered. “Oh, please. Some kind of noble human sacrifice? Next you’ll be telling me you planned it to turn out the way it did.” McCoy said nothing, and Q said, “I thought not. You humans are just not that clever. Your puny brains are…”

“You’re telling me you are responsible for everything that’s happened to us?” McCoy interrupted, anger growing in him.
“For the deaths of my friends?” Q smirked again, and McCoy studied him, measuring the distance across the table and fighting down the urge to go for his throat, certain it would do no good. Then a thought occurred to him, and began to grow in his mind. “Well, you didn’t do a very good job, did you?” he said. Q frowned, and McCoy went on. “If you’re so omnipotent, why aren’t you talking to Jim Kirk instead of me? He was the leader of our ‘little group’ as you put it. Why isn’t he here now?”

Q scowled. “Have a care, doctor. I could snuff you out like a candle.”

McCoy stared at Q, and a small smile crept across his battered features. “You screwed up, didn’t you?” he said. “What Jim did wasn’t in the plan.” McCoy threw back his head and laughed. “My God, he beat you! A puny human, Jim Kirk, and he kicked your butt!” McCoy laughed louder, and Q rose from his chair, his face a thunderous mask.

“Doctor, I’m warning you! I’ll…”

“You’ll what? Kill me?” said McCoy, wiping away tears of mirth. “After what I’ve been through, you don’t frighten me.”
McCoy looked up at Q, and gave him his best scornful glare. “I may be just a ‘puny’ human,” he said, “but I’m from Mississippi, and I know an asshole when I see one. Go ahead, do your worst.”

Q stood behind the desk, looming over McCoy while the doctor glared defiantly at him. He raised a hand, and a light began to emanate from it. It grew in brightness, and McCoy felt a tightening in his chest. He struggled to breathe, but smiled painfully at the entity, giving him back his own smirk. “A heart attack?” he gasped. “ Is that the best you can do? I’m…disappointed.”

Q glared, and raised his hand again, and the light grew once more. McCoy groaned, and tried to stand, but fell to the floor. He looked up at Q, and the light seemed to be growing; the pain in his chest faded, and still the light grew in intensity. I’m dying, he thought. This is it, the old final frontier. Then he saw that Q had lowered his hand; the light, however, continued to increase in intensity, while the pain in his chest abated, then disappeared altogether. The light, unearthly and translucent, shimmered in several distinct shapes, all of them rapidly growing brighter than the light around them. Here I go, thought McCoy, the old tunnel of light, with loved ones waiting at the other end. Wonder if Jim and the others will be there?

Q stood still, his superior manner gone. The brilliant glow slowly diminished, and the shapes gradually dimmed and resolved into iridescent human figures, standing in a semi-circle facing McCoy. The doctor felt himself being lifted, although there was no one near him. He settled into the chair again, and one of the figures stepped forward. It looked at Q, who was standing with his head down like some petulant child, then it spoke, its “voice” clear and serene in McCoy’s mind.

“We are the Continuum. We have decided that this has gone on for long enough, and now it will stop.” The figure hesitated, then continued. “This is difficult for us, Leonard McCoy, so you will have to be patient. We are not accustomed to…apologizing…to an inferior race, but we have decided that the entity you know as Q has meddled in your affairs once too often.”

McCoy frowned, all discomfort from his apparent “heart attack” miraculously gone. He swallowed, then found his voice. “My affairs? But I’ve never seen him before.”

The being inclined its head. “I refer to humanity’s affairs,” it said. “The human race. Q’s…dabbling has been tolerated because we held humans to be of little account in the great scheme of the universe.

However, in the light of some of your race’s accomplishments, in particular this most recent event, we feel he may have…overstepped, and perhaps not only on this occasion. We began to feel that he was paying you too much attention, more than a race of corporeal beings warranted. His…obsession with the one called Picard and his people has been the cause of some unfamiliar apprehension among us…”

McCoy frowned. “Picard? I don’t know anyone of that name.”

The entity smiled, a brief flicker. “No, you would not. I am not going to explain; suffice only to say that time has no meaning for us, Leonard McCoy. All of existence occurs in one eternal instant, and we are able to travel through it as easily as you travel through corporeal space, on your species’ trek through the stars. But even we cannot see all the way to the end, or even if there is in fact an end. Nor can we discern all possibilities, for they are also infinite in their number. But as far as you and your race are concerned, in this time, we feel that Q has…erred. Therefore, although we do not normally interfere, we will make an exception in this case. By doing so, we hope to re-establish a balance, and make up for some of Q’s excesses with others of your kind.

“For the universe must always be kept in balance, Leonard McCoy, and that is not always something that happens naturally, of its own accord. If you think harshly of us, try to remember that we of the Continuum are constantly striving to maintain that balance. Now, it has been tipped, and one of us is to blame. Therefore, we must set it right. To this end, we will disclose one last secret to you. You can choose whether or not to divulge this information, although I suspect that your training as a physician regarding the keeping of confidences will determine your decision.
At a time in your future, the one called Kirk will die and be reborn once more; he has a task to perform, and it involves the one called Picard. When it is done, we will take him; later, we will also take Picard, for they are both worthy of the Continuum. Similarly, the others who serve them will also be reborn and will become one with the Continuum when their mortal time ends, for they too are worthy. Whether or not you yourself join them depends on what you do with the remainder of your corporeal existence.

“You will not see us again in this life, nor will your race see or hear from Q. His contact with humanity is at an end, although he will, from your perspective, appear again in your future. However, that will not be your responsibility; another generation will by then have assumed the mantle. Perhaps Q is wrong; perhaps your race will evolve to our level, just as we were once at yours. Time will tell. Because time, Leonard McCoy, at the beginning and the end of all things, is all there is.”

The light began to fade, and the strange beings with it, and in a moment, McCoy was alone in the room. He sat, staring at the place where Q had been, and then started as he heard a voice he never thought he would ever hear again.

“Kirk to sickbay.”

*

McCoy stared at the communicator on the wall, confusion on his face, hardly daring to hope.

“Kirk to sickbay,” it said again. “Bones, are you there?”

McCoy lurched to his feet and staggered across the room to the intercom. He touched the control and said, “Jim? Jim, is that you?”

The well-remembered voice came back, strong and confident, in a slightly amused tone. “Of course it’s me, Bones. Who were you expecting?” Before McCoy could stammer a reply, the voice continued. “We’re about to dock at Star Base One, Bones. I just thought you might like to come to the bridge, to see the Enterprise arrive home for the last time.”

McCoy leaned against the wall, his senses reeling. The last time? What was...? That was what Jim had said when they had arrived back from the Peace conference at Camp Khitomer. But that was more than three years ago! How….?
Those…things, whatever they were, must have done this, he thought. Somehow, they’ve taken us back to that time, wiped out all that came after. He touched the control again.

“I, ah, I’ll be right there, Jim,” he said.

“Make it quick, Bones,” came the reply. “We’re almost home.”

McCoy mumbled an acknowledgement and staggered to the chair behind the desk that the entity Q had so recently occupied. He looked down at himself and saw that he was wearing his customary medical smock over his commander’s uniform. He felt no ill effects from the induced “heart attack”, and he took a moment to look at his surroundings. This was his sick bay, his Enterprise! Quickly, he composed himself, then rose and headed for the door. His excitement mounted and he quickened his pace as he approached the turbolifts. What the hell was he going to tell them?


***

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